One of the most disturbing aspects of the Josh Duggar sex crimes is the fact that the 33-year-old predator did not act alone.
For years, friends and family members turned a blind eye to Josh’s depravity, sometimes for his own sake, and sometimes out of fear of damaging his family’s multi-million dollar media empire.
When Josh molested five young girls, his parents helped him to conceal the crimes and avoid prosecution — even though four of the victims were Josh’s sisters.
And despite the fact that every member of his inner circle should have been on high alert from that day forward, Josh’s predatory behavior was allowed to continue for well over a decade.
By now, you’re likely familiar with the details of the crimes that finally landed Josh behind bars.
In April of last year, Duggar was arrested on child pornography charges following a lengthy investigation by the Department of Homeland Security that included a raid on the car dealership that was owned by Josh.
Last month, those Duggar was convicted on those charges.
Josh currently awaits sentencing in an Arkansas jail.
He could be face up to 20 years in prison.
Outrage over the case is primarily directed at Josh, but numerous critics have pointed out that his enablers are not innocent in all of this.
Josh’s parents certainly bear some of the blame, but there’s widespread disagreement with regard to the role that Anna might have played.
Some have gone so far as to argue that Anna should have her kids taken away for allowing to live with a known predator for so long.
And to be fair, the mother of seven didn’t help her case by smiling as she strolled into the courtroom each day to support her monstrous husband.
But there’s another school of thought — one which holds that Anna is one of Josh’s victims, and is therefore deserving our sympathy, not our contempt.
Columnist and minister Patty Breen makes a passionate case for Anna in a new article published by the online women’s magazine Verily.
The piece, entitled “I Don’t Judge Anna Duggar, Because I Know Her Situation Too Well — and subtitled “Acknowledging the hidden victim in the Josh Duggar scandal” — contains Breen’s account of her own marriage to a sex addict.
While Breen notes that she “didn’t physically act out with other people or become convicted on charges of child pornography,” she says it’s easy for her to find the parallels between her situation and Anna’s.
And she wants to caution Duggar critics against judging a long-suffering wife too harshly.
When awful news like this breaks, we can sometimes forget about hidden victims in these situations—in particular the partner or spouse—typically the wife,” Breen writes.
“I know this because ten years ago I found myself in a shocking situation not too unlike that of Anna Duggar.”
Breen was eventually able to leave her marriage, but Anna likely never felt that was an option for her.
Divorce is strictly forbidden in the Duggars’ world, and even if it didn’t go against her religious beliefs, Anna likely feels that she has no choice but to remain in her marriage while her husband is locked away.
After all, Anna has no real-world job experience (Duggar women are also prohibited from holding jobs outside the home) and seven children to support.
If she loses the financial support of her in-laws, Anna’s situation becomes even more perilous.
As it is, insiders say that while Jim Bob and Michelle do not plan to offer Anna handouts, they have arranged business deals that should be enough to keep a roof over their grandkids’ heads.
Specifically, Jim Bob purchased a parcel of land through an LLC that he and Josh opened in Anna’s name ahead of the trial.
Sources close to the situation say that Jim Bob has reached a deal develop the land, and he plans to split the proceeds with Anna.
Needless to say, this is probably not the life that Anna envisioned for herself when she married the eldest son of one of America’s wealthiest and most famous evangelical families.
So while it’s certainly easy to blame her for naivete, it’s important to bear in mind that Anna has suffered mightily as a result of Josh’s egregious misdeeds.
Certainly, she could have done some things differently, but let’s not fall into the “perfect victim” trap when assessing Anna’s situation.
Breen cautions her readers against a blaming “a woman for ‘not doing enough'” in a situation like Anna’s.
It’s always tempting to judge the Duggars, as they spend so much of their lives in judgment of everyone else.
But in this case, it’s important to bear in mind that Josh acted alone and was enabled by his parents.
All other bystanders are likely consumed by shock, anger, and guilt these days — and they’re deserving of our compassion.