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The Year of the Scapegoat: Free Jinger

We continue discovering how toxic families work this year so that everyone who is involved in one can understand their role and why their family does what it does. Today, we’re taking on the Duggars, near to my heart because there are some aspects of the Duggar experience that are going to be familiar to anyone who grew up in a religious cult.

My aunt used to say, “Someday, one of those Duggar kids is going to write a book.”

It turned out to be Jinger, now Jinger Vuolo. Like her older sisters Jessa and Jill, Jinger married early. But she married a guy who has a different approach to married life, ie, one that prioritizes respect for his partner. According to the Duggar girls, who court instead of date, their prospective husbands had to fill out an application that was something like 40 pages long so that Jim Bob Duggar, the family patriarch, knew that it was ok to hand over control of his daughter to her husband. That’s right, you control your daughter until she’s ready to breed. Then you hand over control to her husband. Their weddings are bizarre and icky but that’s part of the sex focused marriage rite for them.

Jeremy Vuolo passed the interview and background check but turned out to be decidedly more liberated than his father in law. Jinger has changed her views about her religion with her husband’s help (he’s in seminary for a conservative but not tyrannical church). These days, she’s ok with other people drinking alcohol, using birth control for her own family, and wearing whatever the f{}% she wants. She’s shed her dowdy below the knee skirts for ripped jeans, shorts and pants.

Well, the Duggar parents are having the vapors.

Sisters Jill and Joy Anna have also taken to wearing jeans on occasion but Jinger turns out to really be enjoying fashion. Jim Bob and Michelle strongly disapprove to the point where they have started excluding Jill and Jinger from the fold. They might negatively influence their other siblings, especially the younger girls. They have been admonished. But their husbands say it’s ok. Nevertheless, the pressure on Jinger and Jill has been so intense and negative that they’ve in had to seek professional counseling. Court testimony from two husbands show that the shunning and disapproval has had a negative effect on their wives’ emotional well being.

The Duggar parents are harsher in judgement towards their jeans wearing daughters than their convicted child pornography buying son. Let’s think about that for a moment. Josh Duggar used the site Ashley Madison to cheat on his long suffering Griselda wife Anna, had SEVEN children with her, and was caught with a ton of child pornography on the Linux partition of his hard drive. He has blamed others for putting it there and swears he’s completely innocent. The judge and jury weren’t buying it and he’s serving 11 years in a segregated unit for sex offenders in a prison in Texas. He’s been fined a hefty sum. His wife has had to sell most of his property to pay for his transgressions. She’s going to have to raise SEVEN kids by herself and even when he’s released, he’ll have to stay far away from children, including his own, for most of the rest of his life.

Did I mention that Anna can’t divorce her husband? I mean, I guess she technically can. He’s broken the only rules that would allow it according to the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) that the Duggars have been spokespeople for since they burst into the scene almost 20 years ago. Adultery should work, Child pornography should be a no brainer. But Josh and Anna have a covenant marriage, meaning they need to try extra hard to stay together. And, get this, Josh is still Anna’s spiritual head of the house. She looks to him for leadership and guidance.

Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, Jinger. So, while Jinger is getting a lot of flak for her clothes, lack of desire for 45 children and tolerance for her husband having an occasional cocktail, Josh has been walking through his trial, sentencing and appeal with daddy Jim Bob firmly at his side. Josh spent his time after his indictment living with a family friend. He went to weddings where children were present, presumably with the court’s approval that someone would be responsible for him.

While Josh’s infractions are extremely serious to US, to the Duggars, it’s Jinger and Jill who have stepped out of line and who can’t be trusted around their younger children.

For the last 20 years, the Duggars were held up as paragons of virtue. The children were so obedient. They were homeschooled. They were modest to the point of asexuality. They wore uniforms. They were so biblical. They believed in strict gender roles. They court. Kissing before marriage is strictly forbidden and monitoring is rigorously enforced. If you have ever been around a fan of the Duggars, as I have, it’s hard to understand how anyone could admire this lifestyle because those kids have been deliberately excluded from The World and have been likely punished for having any independent thoughts or personal aspirations. Weirdly, the Duggar fan never stops to consider how hard this must be on the children.

That’s because the Duggars and their admiring wannabes who join high control religious cults have a lot in common with the toxic family bullies. They crave power, control, absolute obedience and praise. They want attention for what they have accomplished, which is usually a family structured around fear and a formal control hierarchy. How else can you get those kids to march in step, hand in hand, mandatory smiles plastered on their faces and playing their instruments like little orchestras that any North Korean dictator would envy?

Come to think of it, have you ever noticed that high control religious groups iconography looks a LOT like North Korean propaganda posters? Yep. Check it out:

I’d add more but I don’t want to turn this post into a propaganda pamphlet for those of you craving a worry free world where residents wander around in native dress with baskets of produce. It gets to be boring. And anyway, who wants to spend eternity rigidly adhering to a bunch of arbitrary rules devised by a jealous and capricious god?

Well, the answer is, not Jinger Duggar. Her new book, Becoming Free Indeed, My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, releasing next Tuesday, threatens to erode the mighty facade of the Duggar family and its unholy alliance with the IBLP even further. It’s going to be a roadmap for surviving cult mind control and the toxic family bullies that force their children into it.

I’ve heard that the Duggars enablers have already commenced a campaign tut-tutting Jinger for airing her grievances. (We don’t even know what’s in it yet and they’re already speculating. Hmmm…) It’s going to get worse. The guilt for what she’s putting her parents through, how ungrateful she is instead of a dutiful daughter. The remaining children under the Duggar’s control will be given a choice. Stick with the family or stay friends with your sister. Whatever limited bounty you’re getting from Jim Bob will be cut off if you choose to dance with the devil. It’s the way of the toxic family bully. To maintain control, they need to insert themselves into the middle of the family access to social status and any wealth. All they have to do is smear the scapegoat and the rest of the family falls in line. It’s what they’re used to if they haven’t been able to break free themselves.

The thing is, not all family heads who join high control religious groups are bullies. And let’s not put all the blame on the IBLP. It wouldn’t be a cult if some people didn’t find it appealing. Let’s put the blame where it belongs. There is a certain subtype of these bullies for which wrapping themselves in the image of religiosity is ferociously important and a convenient cover for their darker dictatorial impulses. They demand compliance from their children. They do not tolerate deviation from their concept of normality. And any violators will be prosecuted by isolation, exclusion, family mobbing (a topic that deserves its own post) and financial withholding. Jill has had to set strict boundaries with her parents. She has described her father as very controlling and verbally abusive. I can relate.

Withholding money has already affected the Duggar children since Jim Bob Duggar signed all the contracts for the TV series he roped his kids into. He controlled the purse strings. Step out of line and you get nothing, including the money you might have used to have your own life. His daughter Jill ended up having to take him to court to get a lifetime of earnings he was sitting on. It made him millions. She ended up with a lump sum that has been described as barely minimum wage for all the hours she spent in front of the camera giving glory to her saintly parents.

Jinger may have learned from this experience. Put it all in a book that our aunts have been waiting for, describing all the tyranny in the most loving terms while she sticks a pin in the balloon that is the Duggar’s image of godly paradise. Write a check to Jinger Duggar Vuolo.