Jessa Seewald came to the defense of her oldest brother, Josh Duggar, on Friday in an interview with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
“I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist,” Seewald said, “I’m like that is so overboard and a lie really. I mean people get mad at me for saying that, but I can say this because I was one of the victims.”
Another Duggar sister, 24-year-old Jill Dillard, said that although it wasn’t their “first choice” to speak publicly about the matter, she and Seewald decided to “set the record straight” once the story broke and was widely discussed.
“This is something like we chose to do, nobody asked us to do this,” Dillard said.
“Most of the stuff out there is lies,” she said. “It’s not the truth.”
Seewald and Dillard have now identified themselves as victims of molestation by Josh Duggar more than a decade ago, when he was a teenager, and they were aged 10 and 12. The Washington Post generally does not name victims of sexual assault; however, the two sisters have now spoken about the matter publicly.
“We are victims,” Dillard tearfully told Kelly in another portion of the interview. Explaining her reaction to the moment when allegations against her brother came to light last month, she said: “They can’t do this to us.”
“I see it as a re-victimization that’s even 1,000 times worse,” Dillard said.
Josh Duggar, now 27, apologized on May 21 for teenage “wrongdoing,” after a tabloid published allegations that he had molested several young girls. Duggar also resigned from his high-profile job with the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council in Washington.
The sisters star with Josh Duggar and the rest of the Duggar family in TLC’s popular reality show, “19 Kids and Counting.” The network pulled the program from the air a day after the molestation allegations surfaced; The network has not since commented on its long-term plans for “19 Kids and Counting” or on any other future programming with the family.
“We’ve never claimed to be a perfect family,” Dillard said of her family’s choice to star in a reality show. “My parents have always actually stated, you know, we are not a perfect family. We are just a family.”
As their parents had in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Dillard and Seewald questioned the legality of how In Touch obtained a police report detailing the allegations. “You can’t FOIA juvenile cases, everybody knows that,” Seewald said.
However, legal experts told The Washington Post on Friday that under Arkansas law, the release of the reports — with the victims’ names and relevant pronouns redacted — was likely within the law.
In another portion of the interview, Seewald defended her brother’s work at the Family Research Council, which included lobbying against same-sex marriage.
“It’s right to say, ‘Here’s what I believe, here’s my values,’ even if you’ve made stupid mistakes or failures,” Seewald said. “If you’ve had failures in your past, it doesn’t mean you can’t be changed. I think that’s where, I think the real issue is people are making this sound like it happened yesterday.”
The sisters also discussed whether they feel like “a victim of molestation:”
JESSA: “Well, I think in the case of what Josh did, it was very wrong. I’m not going to justify anything that he did or say it was ok, not permissible, but I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist, some people are saying. I’m like that is so overboard and a lie really, I mean people get mad at me for saying that but I can say this because I was one of the victims. So I can speak out and I can say this and set the record straight here. Like in Josh’s case, he was a boy, a young boy in puberty and a little too curious about girls. And that got him into some trouble. And he made some bad choices, but really the extent of it was mild, inappropriate touching, on fully clothed victims, most of it while girls were sleeping”
JILL: “We didn’t even know about it until he went and confessed it to my parents.”
JESSA: “No, none of the victims were aware of what happened until Joshua confessed.”
JILL: “It wasn’t like we were keeping a secret afraid or something. We didn’t know until Josh explained to my parents what his thought process was, what everything was…”
JESSA: “My parents took [us] aside individually, and they said here’s what’s happened and of course at that point, you’re like, ohh, you’re shocked, you know.”
JILL: “I was scared.”
Dillard also discussed how she was “angry at first” upon becoming aware of what happened.
“And then, you know, my parents explained to us what happened and then Josh came and asked each of us, individually I know, he asked me to forgive him,” she said. “And I had to make that choice to forgive him, you know. And it wasn’t something that somebody forced like, ‘Oh you need to do this.’ It’s like, ‘You have to make that decision for yourself.’”
In another part of the interview, Dillard discussed what happened after she forgave her brother:
“My dad explained to us, ‘You know there’s a difference between forgiveness and trust. That’s not the same thing.’ You know, you forgive someone and then you have boundaries. Forgiveness with boundaries. And so trust comes later. You know Josh destroyed that trust at the beginning. And so he had to rebuild that. And so I think when he came back, that was…the point of rebuilding.”
The sisters also explained what “safeguards” were put in place in their home, including “locks on doors, you know, everybody’s in bed. Girls in the girl’s room. Boys in the boy’s room,” Dillard said.
“And as a mother now,” Dillard said, “I look back and I think you know my parents did such an amazing job for me.”
Seewald and Dillard spoke with Kelly at the Duggars’ family home in Arkansas on Wednesday for an interview that aired on Friday.
A lengthy interview with their parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, aired Wednesday evening, earning the show its highest ratings of the year, Fox News said.
You can read more about the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar interview here.
This post, originally published on June 4, has been updated multiple times.