An Open Letter to Anna Duggar

Dear Anna,

We don’t know each other. But I feel a connection with you and Josh because, like both of you, I grew up in a conservative Christian home and was homeschooled my entire life. Like Josh’s parents, my parents were leaders of homeschool groups and organizations (albeit on a smaller scale than Josh’s). So I grew up under the spotlight. I am familiar with living a life where your every move — and every stumble — has the potential to be examined by all sorts of people ready to critique you.

Of course, there’s also a huge chasm between you and Josh and myself. Whereas Josh and his parents — and consequently you and your children — have become new faces of the conservative Christian homeschooling movement we all grew up in, I now help facilitate a very different movement: the rising voices from alumni and graduates of the conservative Christian homeschooling movement who are speaking up about the abuses and pain they experienced. I have no idea if you’ve ever heard of Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out. And if you have, I’m guessing you probably heard about us in a negative way — that we’re apostates, the Benedict Arnolds of homeschooling, the greatest threat to homeschooling freedoms, and so forth. So it’s highly probable you will never even read this.

But if you do, here’s all I really want to say: My heart breaks for you and your children and I’m so sorry for all the pain you have gone through this last year.

I have seen the Internet gleefully throw parties over the transgressions of your husband. I don’t want to minimize those transgressions, and I hope you know we should not minimize them. Child sexual abuse destroys bodies and souls. I know this personally, as I was sexually abused as a child. What Josh did is inexcusable and it is important that we talk about that. If you haven’t already, please talk about it. Get Josh to a qualified, licensed therapist. Ask him the hard questions: Does he still struggle? Does he think about hurting your children? I know these are uncomfortable questions but they need to be asked. Your children deserve to be safe and you deserve to know the truth.

But you and your children do not deserve to reduced to the punchline of cruel Internet jokes. You do not deserve to be bullied into leaving your husband or shamed for making your own decisions in that regard. I know many people are doing those very things and my heart goes out to you. You deserve better than that.

What Josh did years ago — molesting children — and what Josh did recently — cheating on you — doesn’t just impact Josh. They impact you. They impact your children. And it makes me furious to see so many people talk about and mock Josh as if you and your children do not exist. So many people seem to pay no regard to how their words and their actions will impact you. They want to redefine your last name to refer to sexual abuse, even though you and your children never abused anyone. Yes, Josh has hurt many people. Yes, we need to talk about that. But you and your children will live under that shadow for the rest of your lives. We need to remember that.

I also want you to know that what happened — Josh cheating on you — is not your fault. What your spouse or partner does by means of his own will is never your fault. And anyone telling you otherwise is lying. Anyone telling you otherwise is victim-blaming and victim-blaming is wrong. It is not your fault that Josh chose to break his wedding vows. It is not your fault that Josh could not control his sexual urges. It is not your fault that he betrayed you.

It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.

Marriage (and all relationships, really) are about communication. And Josh failed to communicate his needs and struggles with you. Instead he threw you to the wolves of his infidelity. Even worse, his infidelity was on a site that got hacked, and now most people around the world know in explicit detail how he hurt you. In fact, they might have known he hurt you before you knew. And they chose to disclose that fact with explicit details that served no purpose other than to shame and laugh at your husband. That just kills me. I’m so sorry you had to find out like this.

I know all sorts of people online are giving you unsolicited advice now. They’re saying you should divorce Josh, you must leave him if you truly love yourself, you better flee from him if you love your children. Anna, that’s not their place. And it’s not my place to tell you what to do, either.

You — and you alone — have the right to decide what is best for yourself.

I hope and pray that you do make your decision based on that criterion (and that criterion alone) — namely, what is best for you. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and safe, Anna. You really do deserve that. I know that the homeschooling world we grew up in often said otherwise. It often said that, as a woman, your place was to please your husband. That your needs were less than your husband’s needs. That you had fewer rights to happiness and health.

But the world we grew up in often lied. It is within your rights to make decisions that guarantee your happiness and health. Do not feel you must make your decision based on any other criteria — what is best for the Duggar Family™ Brand, what your religious subculture demands of you, what Josh demands from you, etc.

The only exception to this, of course, is if staying with Josh puts your children in danger. I don’t know Josh, and I don’t know if you lay awake at night worrying if Josh’s allegedly “in the past” actions of molesting children truly are in the past. I don’t know if you have picked up on warning signs, slowly but ever so surely, indicating that he might hurt your children. I just don’t know. But I do know that if you are worried, if your inner radar is going off, please do not wait to act. Please do everything you can to protect your children, even if that means hurting the Duggar Family™ Brand and betraying your religious subculture. The Duggar Family™ Brand and your religious subculture are not Jesus. They are not your gods. They do not deserve your absolute obedience. Jesus calls us to follow him and part of that call is to protect children from adults who would harm them. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” If you have questions or worries about this, I highly recommend checking out the resources from Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an organization run by Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian. My organization HARO also has resources on child abuse.

To be honest, Anna, I don’t pray much anymore. From a young age I was praying to Jesus. From a young age I learned how others prayed in public and I strived to imitate them. I strived to pray my public prayers in a way that elicited those “Amens” and “Yes, Father”s that proved someone knew how to pray well. And I’ve seen so much hypocrisy among both myself back then as well as other homeschool leaders who prayed one way but lived their lives another way. So praying these days leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

But I want you to know I am thinking prayerish thoughts for you.

We here are Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out are thinking about you and wishing you the best.

If you ever need help or support from fellow alumni, we’re here for you.

Sincerely,

Ryan Stollar

HARO Executive Director

26 comments

  • I would add something, if I may. I am a homeschooling mom who filed for divorce from my abusive, adulterous husband. Please know that you (Anna) have time to make your decision. Refuse to be rushed. Repeat the phrase that you are prayerfully considering your options. I forgave my exhole’s first affair. Please keep in mind that your husband (mine too) was caught. He did not repent and give up his sin because of spiritual conviction. Study what the Bible has to say about repentance. word and deed. What does it ‘look’ like.

    I’m praying for Anna too.

  • This… is exactly what I feel, too. THANK YOU for putting it in words here. ^^

  • This is brutally beautiful. Compassion speaks.

  • I am so grateful to see a thoughtful, compassionate take on this affair. Everyone is busy shaming Josh, gleefully glorying in the fall of the Duggar name…everyone is forgetting about Anna, and her children. Anything that befalls Josh befalls Anna, too, until/unless she finds a new life for herself. It’s lovely to see at least one person looking at things differently–focusing on the innocent parties, rather than on pointing fingers and jeering at Josh Duggar. Thank you for this, and I hope Anna does read this.

    • hope she gets the help she needs

      You are completely wrong when you state, “everyone is forgetting about Anna”. Many, many sites are trying to address and help Anna. Many offers of help have come in and more of them are now talking about Anna than about her child molesting, adulterer husband. The problem is the Duggar family. They are mind controllers and part of some weird faction that Anna will never never leave. God help her kids and any future kids born into that sick, sick family.

  • “Marriage (and all relationships, really) are about communication. And Josh failed to communicate his needs and struggles with you.” Not necessarily true. He may have told her “I need sex twice a day or I’m going to have an affair.” Just like my husband did. Still doesn’t make it her fault.

  • Thank you for writing this. I think it’s an important letter in the face of everything happening with Anna and her family right now.
    I did want to suggest that you edit this line: “What Josh did is inexcusable and it is important that we talk about that. If you haven’t already, please talk about it. Get Josh to a qualified, licensed therapist.”
    Saying “get Josh to a therapist” comes across to me as making it her responsibility to do so. I only make bones about this as I was in a very similar situation. Just out of homeschooled high school, I married a man with a pornography addiction. There were many times that he placed more responsibility on me to get him help, than he did on getting help for himself. I know it’s small, but based on the rest of this post I know we agree that it is Josh’s responsibility to show a true change, and that would be one way to show it.
    Other than that, I do know from experience that Anna has to make her own choice of whether to stay or to go. That is something that absolutely cannot be rushed. My instinct too is to tell her to leave, but I also know that is not the right option for a lot of people (including friends of mine who have done differently). In that, I think this was very well written and I hope to God that somehow Anna reads this. If there’s anything I would tell her now, it’s boundaries. I’d sit down and have the boundaries chat with her that was had with me.

  • “Everyone is busy shaming Josh, gleefully glorying in the fall of the Duggar name”

    Please stop letting Josh and the Duggar’s off the hook by blaming “everybody” else for supposedly shaming them.

    No, there is nothing gleeful in knowing children have been molested and the molester has not only gotten away with it, but will never be punished for his crimes – and no, being the butt of jokes is NOT any kind of just punishment for sexually molesting children.

    No on else has shamed the Duggars, including Josh, except the Duggars. They are the authors of their own shame. NO ONE ELSE bears any responsibility for making them feel shame – if they do feel genuine shame, which I doubt, since they are still shoving their faces and lies onto the public. They are lucky they live in a time and place where their religious hypocrisy is just the butt of jokes, and not a death sentence for Anna Duggar, because if they had tried to pretend to be Christians in another age and place, Josh’s actions would have resulted in the stoning of his wife.

    He hasn’t been shamed or punished in anywhere near equal measure to the crimes he has committed. Instead, all he has suffered was well deserved public humiliation in a culture that will not enact punishment on his wife for what he has done.

    No sympathy – for him or his wife. She is an adult, she had a choice, and she chose to believe lies in exchange for a possibility of getting rewarded in some mythical afterlife.

    • @roooth,

      Overall you wrote a good post. I agree: Nobody is responsible for the Duggars’ except themselves. In fact, I find them arrogant and disgraceful.

      They have viciously attacked anyone who has upheld the law:

      *their city’s police chief who was required by law to produce a redacted copy of the police report to a news agency under a Freedom of Information Act request (the Duggars maligned the police chief and demanded her firing, and arrogantly have never apologized)

      *the Arkansas Social Services who investigated the abuse in the Duggar family, as is required by law, and the Duggars hired an attorney for Josh to sue that agency when he was 19 years old.

      As for Anna Duggar, no I don’t blame her. She was raised this way, with no other options. It’s how her parents raised her.

  • I for one, do not hold out much hope that Anna will wake up from her dogma induced coma. I do hope this latest outing of Joshys wakes up one or two of the other Duggar family victims. This cult teaches the men to be repressed and the women to be doormats. WAKE UP you poor victims of oppression!!!

  • “Linda Sheppard
    Today at 9:10am.Given his history of molesting girls as young as 5 years old..and his own confession he is addicted to porn…if this were in Canada his kids would be removed from the home by now and an investigation into if he has kiddie porn on his computer…why is he not being investigated by FBI or childrens protection..his parents are hiding the part of his confession in their statement..the part about the porn addiction..does that not scream they want to hide something more…’

    This comment was on their Facebook page. This person raises an excellent point. Editing that statement shows how much this family tries to cover up. Why isn’t anyone investigating him further?

  • I spent 20 years in a back to the land Christian movement, or for the general public, a
    Christian cult. I appreciate and have shared this compassionate letter. My thoughts immediately went to Anna and her children. Crisis was used in my life to awaken my inner being, and not necessarily a graceful crisis. Crisis is best looked back on with grace because while we say the darkest hour is just before dawn, those dark hours are very scary. Mostly you wonder ‘Where did this god that I knew, go?” Those of us who have left our varying degrees of
    religious dogmas I believe have some beliefs in common . The most basic being a love and
    respect for mankind. Yet we were mostly afraid of the world at large because of our isolationist views . This well written letter is a good example of love having been honed in the fire, so to speak Those of us who have left have gone in many different directions and not all religious. I had to lose my religion to finally find a comfortable place in my life and lifestyle . Wising Anna the best of choices and as stated, those choices may be fulfilled a long way off in the future. Kudos to this letter and author.

  • As always on this site, I find thoughtful and eloquent insight about difficult subjects. I also find in the moderator a great champion of children.

    I was not homeschooled, but I was sexually abused as a child. Everything you write here is true. My concern in this matter is not for Josh or Anna because they are adults, but for their children. In almost every photo I’ve seen of the family, two of the children are acting out by sticking out their tongues. This is NOT normal behavior for happy children. Asking Josh if he has hurt the children may or may not reveal if he has. In my opinion, Anna is wrong to stay in the same house with this man until she has a way to monitor him and has a qualified therapist of her own to guide her.

    • @MissM

      Sorry you were sexually abused as a child. Thank you for sharing your insight. I too have been concerned about the Duggar children for a long, long time.

  • Thank you, Ryan. I sincerely hope she reads this and escapes.

  • Beautifully written. I hope she reaches out.

  • They acted like such a perfect family for years hiding this secret. Other men who have acted in this criminal way are known as sex offenders and must register with their local authorities for the rest of their lives. I believe it’s time this sex offender named Josh Duggar is known throughout the United States. I wouldn’t trust him near any girl or woman.

  • I am so glad that your letter made it to the top 5 links on google after googling “dear Anna Duggar”. I was too feeling very discouraged for her and was distraught that the world is bashing her for wanting to stick it out and not just immediately leave. I know that there are some cases where after much time, prayer, and communication that people must part ways. My prayer and hope for Anna is that Josh does seek out help for the sake of his family. thanks for writing this.

  • Best thing I have read on the subject.

    I also want add most of us weren’t “happy children” either.

  • Pingback: Josh Duggar Checks Into Treatment Center After Porn Star Details “Very Traumatic” and “Terrifying” Sexual Encounter | Homeschoolers Anonymous

  • A Georgia Mom’s Open Letter Regarding Anna Duggar

    “JESSICA KIRKLAND’S FULL ‘BREATHE FIRE’ POST

    I know everybody is laughing about this Josh Duggar story. Oh, a DUGGAR on Ashley Madison, it’s so rich! I wish more people would talk about Anna. I normally keep things light on Facebook, but let’s talk about Anna. Let me tell you: Anna Duggar is in the worst position she could possibly be in right now. Anna Duggar was crippled by her parents by receiving no education, having no work experience (or life experience, for that matter) and then was shackled to this loser because his family was famous in their religious circle. Anna Duggar was taught that her sole purpose in life, the most meaningful thing she could do, was to be chaste and proper, a devout wife, and a mother. Anna Duggar did that! Anna Duggar followed the rules that were imposed on her from the get-go and this is what she got in reward- a husband who she found out, in the span of six months, not only molested his own sisters, but was unfaithful to her in the most humiliating way possible. While she was fulfilling her “duty” of providing him with four children and raising them. She lived up to the standard that men set for her of being chaste and Godly and in return, the man who demanded this of her sought women who were the opposite. “Be this,” they told her. She was. It wasn’t enough.

    What is Anna Duggar supposed to do? She can’t divorce because the religious environment she was brought up would blame her and ostracize her for it. Even if she would risk that, she has no education and no work experience to fall back on, so how does she support her kids? From where could she summon the ability to turn her back on everything she ever held to be sacred and safe? Her beliefs, the very thing she would turn to for comfort in this kind of crisis, are the VERY REASON she is in this predicament in the first place. How can she reconcile this? Her parents have utterly, utterly failed her. Think of this: somewhere, Anna Duggar is sitting in prayer, praying not for the strength to get out and stand on her own, but for the strength to stand by this man she is unfortunately married to. To lower herself so that he may rise up on her back.

    As a mother of daughters, this makes me ill. Parents, WE MUST DO BETTER BY OUR DAUGHTERS. Boys, men, are born with power. Girls have to command it for themselves. They aren’t given it. They assume it and take it. But you have to teach them to do it, that they can do it. We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this. That they don’t have to marry a man their father deems ‘acceptable’ and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE. Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must. Josh Duggar should be cowering in fear of Anna Duggar right now. Cowering. He isn’t, but he should be. He should be quaking in fear that the house might fall down around them if he’s in the same room as she. Please, instill your daughters with the resolve to make a man cower if he must. To say “I don’t deserve this, and my children don’t deserve this.” I wish someone had ever, just once, told Anna she was capable of this. That she knew she is. As for my girls, I’ll raise them to think they breathe fire.”

  • What do you mean “she can’t divorce”? YES SHE CAN! So your saying she should stay with this molester and cheater, correct? Your not thinking of Anna at all. I doubt anyone would blame her. If they do, they are not worth knowing. if this is the way this religion treats people, than leave it!

    • @Lesa,

      I posted, in QUOTATION marks, the excellent open letter, that has gone viral, that a Georgia Mom wrote on her Facebook page about Anna Duggar. It’s an essay basically about the quandary of how Anna was raised and what she faces today. The Mom who wrote it concluded with some important ideas about how our daughters should be raised. It’s not what I believe, it’s not what the George Mom who wrote the letter believes, it’s about what Anna’s family and the Duggars believer and how very, very, very hard it will be for her to get out of that System (because they demand that she stay in it).

  • Pingback: Our Top 21 Most Viewed Posts of 2015 | Homeschoolers Anonymous

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