Ray Comfort Threatens to Stop Watching TLC After Network Drops Duggars

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Ray Comfort, the New Zealand Christian evangelist who famously encouraged Kirk Cameron to become an evangelist as well, has come to the defense of Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar who was accused of (and has somewhat admitted to) child sexual abuse and incest.

In a recent Facebook post Comfort says that,

I saw that The Learning Channel dropped “19 Kids and Counting” from their line-up, so we dropped The Learning Channel from our personal lineup. If they change their minds, so will we.

Here is an image of Comfort’s statement:

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Comfort’s declaration is clearly meant to imply that TLC went overboard in their response to the child molestation accusations against Duggar. And in so minimizing the significance of the allegations against Josh Duggar, Comfort sadly joins other Christian homeschool celebrities including HEAV board member Rick Boyer and Republican Presidential hopeful (and Michael Farris favorite) Mike Huckabee.

Why Mocking the Duggar Children Should Be Off-Limits

Image from the Duggar Family Blog, links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on December 23, 2014.

I’ve said it before on social media and I’ll say it again here. The mocking of Duggar children is not something I can get behind. Criticize the Duggar parents for what they’re doing to their children, criticize Jim Bob, Michelle, and Josh for their anti-LGBT activism, that’s fair game. Mocking the kids isn’t.

Kids like the Duggars, who aren’t being given a real education (you don’t get a real education from ATI Wisdom Booklets), who aren’t allowed college, and who aren’t even allowed a single private conversation with someone of the opposite sex until they’re married, are the ones I’m trying to help.

TLC may put a pretty face on it, but make no mistake, the Duggars are part of a high-control, authoritarian cult. ATI creates an alternate reality, complete with their own version of history and science, and a theology that seems, on the surface, to be orthodox Christianity but is anything but. ATI even redefines language, Scientology-stype.

This is but one small example of the way that ATI indoctrinates its members, but check out their definitions of the character qualities that Bill Gothard decided were important. I’ve included a few of those character qualities below. Notice how most of those definitions are nothing like the dictionary definitions of those words?

When I was a kid some ATI friends gave us the “Character Clues” game, which was supposed to teach you those traits by having you match traits to definitions. Apart from being the world’s most boring game, we gave up on it quickly because the whole thing was redefining words. We could give up on the game because learning Gothard-approved definitions of words was dull, but for people who are part of the ATI cult, learning an entirely new vocabulary is a step in the cult indoctrination process. A process the kids have no say in.

The Duggar kids’ entire version of reality, down to the meaning of the words they use, is the one created by being raised in the cult. Unlike Jim Bob and Michelle, who lived lives outside of the cult before joining, the Duggar kids have nothing to compare anything to. Their entire reality is shaped by the cult and everything they see in the rest of the world they’re seeing through the lens of the cult. TLC gives them a broader set of experiences than most ATI kids have, but they’re still experiencing it through the filter Bill Gothard created. That’s all they know.

Mocking the kids for doing the only things they’ve ever known isn’t doing anything other than entertaining yourself at the expense of kids being raised in an extremely controlling, if not outright abusive, home. That’s cruel. It needs to stop.

On the Duggars and the Locus of Outrage

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on November 21, 2014.

I recently received the following email:

Hi Libby Anne,

I’m a long-time reader of your blog, so I know you occasionally write about the Duggar family. Well, recently I heard about a fairly popular petition to get the show “19 Kids and Counting” cancelled. Maybe you have also heard this, but if not, here is one news story about it:


Supposedly, this was due to comments they made against gay marriage. Perhaps you were already planning on doing a post about it. Either way, I (and probably others) would be curious to know: what do you think about this? Should TLC cancel the show? Are people calling for its cancelation for the right reasons? Is this a good opportunity to bring other harmful ideas promoted by the family to light?



Curious asks some very good questions, questions that have been percolating since I first heard about the petition a few days ago. So let me walk you through my current thought process.

Yes, the Duggars are homophobic. They are also incredibly sexist, carefully limiting and curtailing their daughters’ dreams. The Duggars have long supported cult-like organizations run by men who sexually harassed and molested teenage and young adult girls in their employ (Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard). Actually, the Duggars continue to support and promote one of these organizations (ATI), which has jettisoned its founder (Bill Gothard) but is run by the same leadership that spent decades covering up his sexual offenses.

The Duggars have for years promoted child rearing books that require parents to “break” their children’s wills and to shun “rebellious” adult children. They don’t allow their adult children to so much as go shopping without an “accountability buddy,” and don’t allow their adult daughters to text significant others without having a parent in on the conversation. And lest you think the adult children opt into this system entirely out of their own free will, did I mention the shunning “rebellious” children bit? That would be what this is about.

And have I even gotten to the question of what the Jim Bob and Michelle are doing with all of the money they get from TLC? They certainly don’t appear to be putting it in accounts for their children, whom they continually insist they cannot afford to send to college.

Oh, and Michelle Duggar says things like this:

In your marriage there will be times you’re going to be very exhausted. Your hubby comes home after a hard day’s work, you get the baby to bed, and he is going to be looking forward to that time with you. Be available. Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls.

In the Duggars’ world, women are not allowed to say “no” to sex. A wife’s duty is to always “be available when he calls.” Also part of the Duggars’ world is the belief that wives must submit to their husbands. You better believe that Jill and Jessa, both recently married, fully believe that they must obey their new husbands. They believe this because that is what their parents spared no pains to teach them. That’s how this works.

So I am at a loss as to why, out of all of this, it is only now and only with regards to their homophobia that people have a serious problem with the Duggars. It’s not even like this is the first time the Duggars have combined their opposition to gay rights with their politics—in 2012 they campaigned for Rick Santorum, emphasizing his opposition to marriage equality. Don’t get me wrong, I find the Duggars’ views abhorrent. But why this issue and this moment, and not other issues or earlier moments?

The petition itself was actually started months ago, when Michelle recorded her transphobic robocall, but didn’t gain much traction. It only began making real progress toward gaining signature last week, when the Jim Bob and Michelle posted a photo of themselves kissing and invited other married couples to post their own photos. When gay and lesbian couples became posting their own kissing photos, the person running the Duggar facebook page deleted them. And that, dear readers, is what actually caused the current outrage against the Duggars’ homophobia.

So let’s get this straight. The Duggars support an extreme version of patriarchy that holds that wives must be constantly sexually available for their husbands, and no one bats an eye. The Duggars promote child rearing practices that involve spanking infants and punishing children for frowning, and no one cares. The Duggars don’t allow their adult children to be unchaperoned or to text their beaus without daddy reading over their shoulders, and everyone smiles and calls it quaint. The Duggars support a sexual predator and continue supporting his ministry even after his actions are made public, and everyone yawns. Michelle Duggar records a transphobic robocall and most people just shrug. But the Duggars delete pictures of gay and lesbian couples kissing from their personal facebook page, and that is enough to bring a hundred thousand people out of the woodwork to demand TLC to pull the show.

Now for the million dollar question: Do I think the petition is a good idea? Would I like to see TLC pull 19 Kids and Counting?

Here is what I would like to see: I would like to see TLC be honest in its portrayal of the Duggars. I would like them to be clear about the fact that their star family supports the ministry of a serial sexual predator. I would like them to be clear that the girls are not given any semblance of true choice when it comes to leaving home or going out with a boy. I would like to see them be honest about the child rearing practices the Duggars support, rather than allowing the Duggars to smile and hedge every time someone asks them about spanking.  I would like to see them be brutally and painfully honest about what Michelle and Jim Bob are teaching their daughters about their role in life, as women. I would also like to see more attention paid to the quality of education the children are receiving, and why none of them have attended college.

The problem I have with TLC is not so much the fact that they run the Duggar’s show as it is the fact that they portray the family as all cutesy and happy and sweet, covering over the horrible things the parents believe and support and the impact these things have on their children. I grew up in a family like the Duggars. I was the oldest of twelve children, homeschooled, courtship, the whole thing. There is so much there that the TLC crew doesn’t even touch on as they fall all over themselves giving the family a happy friendly smiling glaze.

I don’t think we should require families on TV reality shows to support gay rights. I do think we should demand that the networks that air reality shows be honest about their subjects. And while we’re at it, let’s demand that TLC set up accounts for each of the children rather than simply handing the cash over to their parents. But where’s the outrage pushing that cause?

When A Child is Taught to Hate: My Version of the Alicia Story, Part 2

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Cynthia Jeub’s blog CynthiaJeub.com. It was originally published on November 12, 2014. 

< Part One

Part Two

“That’s not despair you’re feeling, it’s the petulant reaction of a wounded child
And that’s not the door I’m looking at, it’s an escape hatch to the zeppelin we’re inside…
This ain’t an insult, it’s the clearest truth I’ve ever had the misery to speak
These aren’t words, these are the terms of my surrender and defeat
But I’m not sorry, beyond the sorry nature of existing with no plans
Please don’t touch me, just wave goodbye with that claw that’s not a hand.” -El-P

I didn’t see the woman who raised me for three years. “Alicia” became a word that could incapacitate me for want of an emotional outlet. I didn’t know what triggers were, but the mention of her name was a trigger, and is still something I have mixed feelings about.

My aunt Becky visited my sister sometimes during those years, and she once showed me a picture of my baby nephew. I saw his picture, and felt no loss for myself in having never met a family member. My mother had already killed that idea: he was a symbol of my sister’s rebellion, proof that she was as “promiscuous” as mom said she was.

In 2006, we filmed for The Learning Channel and the film crew didn’t press the issue. My parents said my sister lived far away, and was, unfortunately, unavailable to participate in the show. Becky told me recently that when she met the on-site producer, he dropped this information offhand: “It’s too bad their oldest daughter couldn’t make it.”

“Alicia? But she lives twenty minutes away. I’m staying with her.”

“What? That’s not what I was told.”

That’s when they pressed the issue with my dad in an interview. This was the juicy story Reality TV was looking for, so they planned to film extra footage of a meet-up. My mom had met my nephew that summer, and the TV cameras filmed her getting a meal with Alicia and her son. Dad filmed his first meeting with his grandson, and the Learning Channel used his footage in the final show’s cut. I knew nothing of this at the time.

I saw my sister for the first time in three years the night before I’d be watching her on TV.

At the beginning of 2007, there was a short reunion. My dad called it the return of the prodigal, and we actually ate elk calf from a recent hunting trip. He said we’d “killed the fatted calf.” It looked great and we were all smiles, and it helped my parents sell a lot of books under the “Love in the House” brand. Seeing those pictures now makes me shudder. In the last two photos, I’m smiling unnaturally brightly, saying to my dad’s camera what I couldn’t say aloud – that I was desperate to let the world know how glad I was to have my sister back that night.

The next seven years were rocky. We tried to make it work, but mom and dad insisted on condescending to Alicia. They refused to treat her relationship as a marriage, saying she and her boyfriend, Josh, were “shacking up,” even though they were in a steady, stable relationship and we live in a common law state. They wanted to print in the Christmas Letter that she’d had another child out of wedlock, with no mention of her committed husband. Alicia gave my mom a family picture including Josh and their two sons, but my parents refused to use it. In turn, Alicia and Josh refused to let them put pictures of their kids in the Christmas Letter.

I believed my parents were right to treat my sister the way they did. After all, she wasn’t really married. She had done some pretty bad things by the standards with which I was raised. I fought with her and cut off communication because she wanted to keep talking to me, even though there was conflict with my parents.

I only started to doubt the way my parents had treated Alicia when my parents kicked Lydia and me out. This was all familiar, something I hadn’t heard in over a decade: “You can’t be here. Get out or do as I say.” It was what my dad had said to my older sister, Alicia, in their fights before she moved out.

When my dad used the same phrases on me, I doubted for the first time: maybe Alicia didn’t do anything wrong. I fought to keep my voice steady against his onslaught: “This sounds familiar, dad. Like what I heard you say to Alicia.”

Dad’s reply was, “Oh, so now it’s personal, huh?”

For some time, Lydia and I had been discussing dad’s lack of understanding for other people. He just wasn’t aware of others’ feelings or perspectives. Earlier that year, when I’d told him I couldn’t read through an entire book and copy-edit it on top of work and school, he’d gotten me up two hours before sunrise and forced me to edit it before I had to leave for class. That summer, when I’d spent a few days working on my own writing, he told me that I was letting my summer get away from me because I wasn’t working for him all the time.

When I interact with people, I recognize that they have a whole life, and we’re interacting briefly. Dad didn’t seem to have that kind of capacity. When I worked for him, his wishes came first, and I couldn’t ever say “no,” even if I was overwhelmed. If I wasn’t working for him, I wasn’t doing anything important.

My theory of dad’s inability to understand others flashed through me when I mentioned Alicia. I later learned the word I was looking for: empathy.

He didn’t see that I’d mentioned it because I was hurt. He thought I was attacking him. That’s how my interactions with my dad have always been if I try to stand up for myself.

I’ve told this story to countless people, painting my sister as the villain in the situation. My parents first sent me to Christian counseling because I felt so betrayed by Alicia. Many people have heard a very different story.

For the sister I lost and regained after ten years, I need to tell my version of the story. This is how I see it now.

4 Reasons Conservatives Should Join Liberals in Opposing the Duggars

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Michelle Duggar is the matriarch of the popular conservative Christian homeschooling family featured on The Learning Channel’s 19 Kids and Counting. Several months ago, she made a robocall to citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas urging them to vote against a bill that would grant transgender women access to public accommodations for cisgender women (such as restrooms and changing areas). Duggar insinuated that “men,” particularly “males with past child predator convictions,” would use this bill’s passage to perpetuate child sexual abuse.

In August, HARO board member Shaney Lee pointed out the hypocrisy in Michelle Duggar’s supposed concern for child abuse victims:

“To put it bluntly, Michelle Duggar is a hypocrite. She supposedly cares about keeping women and children safe from sexual predators, yet her family continues to be associated with a known sexual predator: Bill Gothard. The Duggars have long been huge supporters of Bill Gothard and his ministry, Institute of Basic Life Principles… Bill Gothard resigned from IBLP and all its affiliates back in March of this year when over 30 women accused him of sexual harassment….In the face of overwhelming evidence showing Gothard to be a sexual predator, the Duggars have said nothing. In fact, they continue to profit from promoting ATI and IBLP…In addition to showing a lack of personal integrity, Michelle’s call reinforces that common misconception that sexual predators are strangers. This is simply not the case–particularly when it comes to children…[This misconception] allows people like Bill Gothard to get away with their abuse. Michelle Duggar is more than willing to throw trans* people, who are no more likely to be sexual predators than anyone else, under the bus, while refusing to do the uncomfortable work of publicly denouncing a known predator whom she has supported and promoted for years.”

In light of Michelle Duggar’s robocoll, a petition was started back in August calling on The Learning Channel to end the Duggars’ show 19 Kids and Counting. As of November 19, the petition only had 9,000 signatures. But overnight, due to media coverage likely caused by the Duggars’ Facebook “kissing challenge” and its resulting controversy (they allegedly deleted pictures of same-sex couples participating in the challenge), the petition today has over 100,000 signatures.

Suddenly everyone took note. Conservative and Christian websites have fired back with their own coverage and petitions. The Daily Signal declared that, “Some People Want the Duggars’ Show Cancelled Because They Oppose Men Using Women’s Bathrooms.” “Defend the Duggars as they come under attack!”, beseeched Life Site News (LSN). LSN created a counter-petition which — as of 3:15 West Coast time on Thursday — has almost 20,000 signatures. Here is part of LSN’s petition text:

“In the past few days, liberal extremists have launched a full-scale attack on the Duggars, demanding that The Learning Channel cancel the Duggars’ popular reality TV show… We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values. Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family.”

Actually, Life Site News: no, the Duggars do not defend family values nor do they represent the majority of people. The Duggars are in fact extremists and have explicitly defended extremists who tarnish the name of both conservatism and Christianity.

Conservatives should be just as vocal in opposing the Duggars as liberals. Here are 4 reasons why:

1. The Duggars promote immodesty.

This might seem an odd claim, considering that the Duggars are long-time advocates of wearing “modest” clothing. However, the Christian concept of modesty comes from the Greek word κόσμιος, which refers not to what a person wears but rather an inward state: a state that eschews materialism in favor of making the world a more just, compassionate place. This is why the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 does not suggest replacing “elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes” with “denim jumpers” but rather “with good deeds.” Yet the Duggars have transformed their family into nothing less than the Truman Show. Jim Bob and Michelle have robbed their children of their childhoods, thrust them into the spotlight, and made their own parental narcissism into a brand name. As Christ and Pop Culture observed in their incisive comparison between Lena Dunham and Jill Duggar, “While we watch from our respective corners, cheering or jeering as the case may be, each woman sacrifices her sense of self and the freedom to grow up in private on the altars of ideology and politics and commerce.”

This is not conservative. This is not Christian. These are not family values. The Duggars’ show promotes immodesty in its truest, darkest form.

2. The Duggars promote a dangerous relationship model.

Much has been made of the Duggars’ “courtship rules”. These rules include never being alone with your potential marriage partner prior to marriage. They also include the promise from Michelle Duggar that, “There is no failed courtship.” Oh, if only that were so. As someone who grew up in the conservative Christian homeschool world, I have seen so many courtships fall apart. They have hidden sexual assault. They have promoted shame, caused pride, and created skewed views of relationships which lead to dysfunction. They have created broken, bitter families. In fact, courtship can lead to more heartache than dating. Since courtship is basically two families dating each other (instead of two individuals), break-ups mean not only two individuals get hurt, but entire families get hurt. It can be devastating. I know — I’ve seen it first-hand.

And most disconcertingly, the relationship ideas of the Duggars directly groom women for sexual abuse. As homeschool alum Lana Hope has pointed out,

“The news media has finally connected Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, who sexually assaulted a young woman for a period of a few years, to the Duggar family. It’s not that the Duggars have sexually assaulted anyone.


But they are following the very teaching of courtship and stay at home daughters that allows women to be vulnerable to an abuser. The control they put their daughters under is quite frankly terrifying.”

Conservatives and Christians should be joining with liberals in speaking out against any relationship model that promotes shame, pride, and dysfunctional relationships. In fact, as the self-proclaimed standard-bearers of family values, conservatives and Christians should be speaking out louder than any other groups on this matter.

3. The Duggars have promoted, and continue to promote, spiritually and sexually abusive teachers.

As mentioned before, the Duggars are long-time advocates of Bill Gothard and IBLP, his cult-like ministry that has left immense damage in its wake.

Members of the Duggar family with Bill Gothard at one of Gothard’s IBLP programs, “Journey to the Heart,” where children are taught to “identify blind spots or secret sins that are keeping them from completely surrendering to God.”
Members of the Duggar family with Bill Gothard at one of Gothard’s IBLP programs, “Journey to the Heart,” where children are taught to “identify blind spots or secret sins that are keeping them from completely surrendering to God.”

Let’s review the facts: Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles have been (1) covering up sexual abuse since the 1980′s, (2) accused by over 30 women in the last few years (since 2012) of continuing to cover-up sexual harassment and abuse, and (3) promoting horribly abusive teachings regarding counseling survivors of abuse, Despite this, the Duggars continue to promote IBLP. Not once have they denounced Gothard’s actions or teachings. In fact, just earlier this year, Jim Bob and Michelle continued to be IBLP conference speakers.

And Gothard is just the beginning. The Duggars have also directly promoted Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, a racism-tinged ministry that engaged in the theft of another Christian’s private property. Earlier this year, as documented by a very-not-liberal news site, WorldNewsDaily, Phillips was accused of using his nanny as a “sex object.” Phillips and his teachings have ruined the lives of numerous conservative Christian families. Furthermore, his advocacy of an extreme form of patriarchy directly sets up young women for abuse, especially sexual abuse. In The Cry of Tamar: Violence Against Women and the Church’s ResponsePamela Cooper-White explains that, “Patriarchy sets the stage in general for more abuse of girls and women of every kind at the hands of men, and conditions men to view women as objects for their gratification rather than fellow human beings worthy of empathy and care.”

This is seen clearly in conservative Christian subcultures. Homeschooling mom Julie Anne Smith has observed how patriarchy is “setting up…young ladies for abuse”. And homeschool alum Sarah Jones concurs, explaining that, “The Christian patriarchy movement grooms young women for abuse, consciously or not, by brainwashing them into compliance and encouraging them to forgo developing skills necessary for independent lives.”

Like with Gothard, the Duggars have made no efforts to denounce Phillips.

4. The Duggars threaten homeschool freedoms.

If not for simple morality alone, conservatives and Christians have every incentive to call out the Duggars’ promotion of people like Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips. The fact is, the actions and teachings of Gothard and Phillips directly threaten homeschool freedoms. HSLDA’s Michael Farris himself declared this earlier this year when he called out — by name — the Duggars’ idols, Gothard and Phillips. Farris stated that “families, children, women, and even fathers…have been harmed” by the legalism and patriarchy of these individuals and their ministries. If conservatives and Christians did not start speaking out against this, Farris had a dire warning:

“Their teachings continue to threaten the freedom and integrity of the homeschooling movement…If public policy makers believe that the homeschooling movement promotes teachers and teaching that have a strong likelihood of damaging people—particularly children and women—then our freedom will suffer. Treating children well and treating women well is intrinsically the right thing to do. But it is also the necessary thing to do if we wish to preserve our liberty.”

In short, if Life Site News and the Daily Signal truly want to defend conservative, Christian family values, the very last people they should be defending are the Duggars. They should be joining with these “liberal extremists” and asking The Learning Channel to cancel 19 Kids and Counting — albeit perhaps for different reasons. If there is anything conservatives, liberals, Christians, and non-Christians should be able to unite around, it is fighting child abuse and promoting healthy families.

Defending the Duggars, unfortunately, does the opposite. 

When A Child is Taught to Hate: My Version of the Alicia Story, Part 1

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Cynthia Jeub’s blog CynthiaJeub.com. It was originally published on November 10, 2014. 

Part One

“I’ve been trying to justify you
In the end, I will just defy you.” -Dream Theater, ‘Honor Thy Father’

It started with fights, and I’d never heard my parents yelling. I would be in bed already. Alicia had missed her curfew again. Dad was yelling at her. I crawled out of bed and hid at the bottom of the stairs, listening.

“You’ve made your mom worry sick about you.”

“Dad, I just barely missed it.”

“Where were you? Out partying with your friends again?”

“My youth group friends, dad. They’re Christians…”

“Because our family church isn’t good enough for you, huh?”

Alicia was the person I loved most in the world. When I was a child, I hated getting my hair brushed. Mom would tug at the knots and snarls, and she could move my head by my hair, making me scream and cry. Later on, if my mother ever grabbed my hair, I’d freeze and obey her commands instinctively. Alicia brushed my hair gently, working up from the ends.

I also fondly remember helping with laundry, because she let me clean the lint filter in the dryer, which was fun. When we made Kraft macaroni and cheese, Alicia let me pour the cheese pouches. With these little acts of consideration, she won my affection.

When my family attended Kevin Swanson’s church and my friends there pressured me into wanting a simple life, Alicia fed my love for music. She took me to concerts, and helped me buy my first tall black boots and a jacket with red and black fabric. I wore cool clothes because of her. All of the kids who remember when Alicia still lived with us have sweet memories about why they loved her.

One day in 2003, when I was listening at the bottom of the stairs to my parents arguing with Alicia, I heard dad say, “Get out of my house. You own a car. You can sleep in that tonight.”

She yelled back, “Fine! I will!”

Horrified, I ran upstairs and hugged Alicia. I knew I couldn’t keep her here by wrapping my small, thin arms around her, but I clung like I could. I started crying and begged her not to leave.

I became the device for the argument. “This is why you can’t treat me this way!” Alicia said.

“No, this is why you need to stop being such a bad influence!” Dad said, pointing at me. “Look, they’re attached to you. They’ll do everything you do.”

I cried louder, drowning out their voices. Then I was scolded and punished, but at least I’d made a distraction from the unbearable fighting.

Through more spying and listening in on adult conversations, I learned more of what Alicia had done: at first, she just wanted friends who didn’t go to our parents’ church. My parents said her clothes were too immodest, and once she got in trouble for sitting on a boy’s lap for a picture. Alicia brought Christian guys home, to see if my dad approved of them as friends. My parents didn’t like the friends she chose, and dad didn’t like her first boyfriend.

“No matter what I did, I was rebellious and in trouble,” she told me recently. “So I gave up trying. I thought, ‘If I’m going to be accused of being a bad kid, might as well make the most of it.’”

That’s when she took a housesitting job when she was 18, and hosted parties there. She drank alcohol and she had sex. This was the worst thing she could possibly have done, according to the standards of the world I grew up in.

As the story was told on The Learning Channel, Alicia tried family counseling, and then chose to move away from the family.

What actually happened was that my dad gave her an ultimatum: live in Kevin Swanson’s basement until she’d repented of her ways and submitted to her father’s authority in every way, or she could never see her siblings again.

My parents both cried on my shoulders when I was eleven. They told me all about the pain and heartbreak they were feeling, and I comforted them as best I could. I’d lost my sister, but I told myself that my parents were in more pain than I was. Alissa moved out soon afterward (a different story altogether), and I became the oldest kid in the house, and I became responsible for far more chores than before.

Between the ages of 11 and 14, I learned that mom and dad could express their emotions, but I could not. That was puberty for me.

I was determined to never turn my back on faith and family, as Alicia had.

Part Two >

Melting Memory Masks: Cynthia Jeub’s Story

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Cynthia Jeub. Photo courtesy of CynthiaJeub.com.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Cynthia Jeub’s blog CynthiaJeub.com. It was originally published on October 3, 2014. 

Trigger warnings: child abuse, self-harm

Hey, girl, open the walls, play with your dolls, we’ll be the perfect family. –Melanie Martinez

~eight years ago~

“Mom, dad, I’ve been hurting myself since I was four. I’ve kept it a secret for ten years, and I don’t think anybody else in the world does it. I want to tell you because we’re going to film for TV, and I might lose control in front of the cameras. I don’t want to make our family look bad.”

“Are you still doing it?”

“No. I quit a few years ago.”

“Then your sin is forgiven. We’ll go ahead with the filming. Just don’t tell anyone.”

Picture! Picture! Smile for the picture! Pose with your brother, won’t you be a good sister?

~seven years ago~

“Mommy, stop hitting him! He’s only eleven!”

“Do something, Cynthia! I’m scared…she’s not stopping!”

~a few days later~

“What happened to him? Did he get in a fight with his brother?”

“No. Mom got mad and slapped him. She wouldn’t stop, so I pulled her off of him. He’s wearing makeup so you can’t see the whole bruise and where he was bleeding.”

Everybody thinks that we’re perfect; please don’t let them look through the curtains.

~six years ago~

“I’m going to sit here while the producer interviews you. I’m here to help you remember to say what’s true.”

“Okay, daddy. I trust you.”

Don’t let them see what goes down in the kitchen.

~five years ago~

“Mom, look! I watched ten kids and cooked food and cleaned the house while you were gone!”

“You didn’t do the dishes?! You don’t appreciate that I was gone shopping all day. I do so much work around here, and I can’t be gone for a few hours without coming home to a mess! I need to work in a clean kitchen, and it’s your fault I can’t! I don’t ask for much!”

Places, places, get in your places

~three years ago~

“Is it that cutting thing again? I thought you were over that.”

“I’m scared because I want to kill myself, daddy.”

“Are you sure you’re not just trying to fit in with your college friends, pretending to have problems like theirs?”

No one ever listens, this wallpaper glistens

~two years ago~

“You’re not telling your therapist that you’re having problems with self-harm and depression, are you?”

“No, mom. I’m there because I’m angry with my two older sisters for turning their backs on God and being rebellious, and hurting my parents.”

“Good. I don’t think that’s really something to tell your counselor about.”

Throw on your dress and put on your doll faces.

~one year ago~

“I remember when you were spanked with a belt every day, even though you didn’t do anything wrong most days.”

“So you remember that, too? Weird…I asked mom why they did that, and she said it never happened. I thought there must be something wrong with me.”


~this year~

“Do you remember that one time that mom slapped your face until you had cuts and bruises, and I had to pull her off of you?”

“I know it happened because you and our other siblings were there, but I don’t remember it.”

“You blocked it out?”

“I guess so. Anyway, she said she was so sorry, and it would never happen again.”

“Did it happen again?”

“Yeah, but I was asking for it then. I was a disagreeable boy when I was going through puberty.”

“Don’t you think maybe moms shouldn’t hit their kids over and over until they bruise?”

“Our parents aren’t that bad, Cynthia. You need to stop saying that they’re abusive.”

I see things that nobody else sees.

Part Two >


About the Author


Cynthia Jeub is a blogger at Cynthiajeub.com where she writes about insights on epic living. As a writer, she focuses on faith, philosophy, and the importance of storytelling. She’s most well-known for her reality TV appearances with her family of 18 on The Learning Channel and WE-TV. A theatre major at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, she edits for her school’s student newspaper, The Scribe.


HA note: In light of these allegations by Cynthia (one of Chris Jeub’s daughters), the HARO board is uncomfortable with hosting Chris’s post, “Stiff-Necked Legalism.” We have retracted that post and its comments.