19 Kids and Counting introduced the world to the Duggars, and now crew members from the show are opening up the family.
Originally airing in 2008, 17 Kids and Counting took audience by storm and very quickly made the family a household name.
As the family added children, so did the number in the series title, eventually becoming 18 Kids and Counting and then ending as 19 Kids and Counting.
In Touch recently collected a selection of crew stories from the set of the show where production workers reveal what life was like behind the cameras.
"I worked with the crew for a short time and in my experience, most of them seemed to think they were just as nuts as most of us do," one person said.
"I witnessed crew hiding smoking and drinking from the family for whatever reason and sharing stories about things they saw the family do that they thought was bizarre," the former crew member aded. "There was a clear separation between the crew and family. The crew was just normal people doing a job and the family was just the talent they happened to be shooting.”
Scroll down for more Duggar stories from the production crew of 19 Kids and Counting.
One crew member revealed that they were not allowed to interact with the Duggars, for fear of engaging them in a upsetting conversation.
"The producers of the show had instructed crew members to not ever engage in conversation on our own with Jim Bob or Michelle in fears that we may either say something normal that they would find objectionable or that they would say something to where we’d react funny because we weren’t used to their level of 'unworldliness' I think it was put," the crew member explained.
"We were constantly reminded that we were not to upset them or taint their version of the world, which is why they wanted limited conversation. Even a lighthearted conversation that might actually educate them about something they were horribly ignorant about was seen as tainting their view. It was very much like being told to not tell your little sister about Santa Claus," he added.
Another crew member from the first season of the show told a story about Michelle Duggar finding out a crew member was gay and not being very happy about.
While talking about an impending trip to New York City, Michelle reportedly said to the crew, "Well, I hear the city is overrun by gays. Has that been causing a lot of problems?"
The crew laughed and made reference to a worker who has openly gay, which angered Michelle who reportedly unleashed on a producer. The employee was quickly removed form the set and transferred to another production.
"They kept a very tight lid on this incident," the anonymous crew member detailed, "because on future tapings when new crews would be swapped in, they were suspiciously more and more straight-edged Christian than you’d typically see on the set of a television show."
Yet another anonymous crew member revealed that they once witnessed Jim Bob Duggar punish one of his sons for presumably masturbating.
"Jim Bob walked in; he caught him doing it. Jim Bob's screams made the crew run to where they were filming," the person said. "Immediately they asked him what was wrong. All Jim could reply was 'idle hands are the devil's playthings.'
"Apparently, the whole next day [the son] was supposed to do chores around the house. But Jim Bob had tied his hands together so that doing anything was nearly impossible," the crew member added.
In addition to the crew, several former followers of the same religious group that the Duggar family belongs to have shared stories as well. Rather than being about the series itself, however, these are stories of being involved with the belief system.
The Duggar family are known followers of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which is a non-denominational religious organization that was founded by a man named Bill Gothard.
In 2014, Gothard was accused of sexual assault, but the Duggars have remained a part of his conferences and teachings.
Several women who previously belonged to the group recently spoke to In Touch about their experiences. Below, you will find their stories of what life was like for them while they were members if the IBLP.
Joy Tremont grew up in the IBLP feeling as if she had no control over her own life decisions.
"I couldn’t do what I wanted to do unless I had parental permission. I remember being petrified of who my father would choose to be my husband. I remember one guy coming over frequently and thinking, ‘Oh my God, do I have to marry him? Oh, the horror.’ Or being frightened that whoever I married would make me wear skirts the rest of my life. It was like being boxed in," she recalled.
She explained that she remained in the IBLP teachings for so long because she was fearful after being taught that terrible things would happen to her if she left. "That was the whole reason I stayed in that house until I was 29," she said. "I was so ingrained with that doctrine, I just knew I was going to be murdered like Chandra Levy if I stepped out on my own."
"I suddenly realized when I was 28 that my parents were never going to approve of anyone for me to marry," Joy said. "I was never going to get away from them until they died, and that was a little disheartening to think of." After feeling so depressed she was considering suicide, she decided to revisit a Bible verse that had been hammered into her head since she was a child, "Children, obey your parents."
"The perceived wholesomeness of the family’s lives is merely a veneer. There’s a lot of rottenness under there," she added. "The Dugger girls who were molested by their brother, they’re not allowed to say they feel violated or that they’re angry. You certainly can’t say you’re angry. But there will be a time when that anger comes to the surface, and they won’t know what to do with it."
Choosing to keep her last name undisclosed, Tiffany recounted her story, explaining that her parents became involved with the church while she was a child and prior to that her life was a fairly normal.
Once they were IBLP members, Tiffany's childhood became a strict and isolated upbringing.
"I ended up with very, very few friends as a result," she said, adding that she was forced to run the household and care for her many siblings on her own.
"[My mother] would stay in her room for half the day, many days. And I would clean the house and take care of the kids," she said. "She would never admit it and would never go to the doctor, but I'm pretty sure there was some depression mixed in there."
When she got older, Tiffany worked in the IBLP but says she was routinely made to feel as if the leadership expected her to be a mom and housewife.
"That's your duty as a daughter," Tiffany said. "The sons are expected to get a job within the family business. As a daughter, you're not expected to ever get a job or get an education. The ultimate goal is to get you married off as early as possible."
Today, Tiffany is a teacher and slowly but surely working on putting her past behind her. "If there's something you really want to do, it can happen," she said. "No matter what you were taught."
Elisabeth Feehan describes her time in the IBLP by comparing it to "growing up in Baptist North Korea." Her family became members in the early '90s, a few years before she was even born.
"Behind the facade was an extremely strict, controlling, messy situation," Elisabeth told In Touch. "Behind closed doors there was a raging father who beat his children, a controlling woman, sexual deviance, and multiple suicide attempts from multiple children including myself. Between the Korean need for perfection and ATI’s twisted views on appearing perfect, it weighed heavily on my siblings and I."
She explained that her parents were very strict and had a "1,000-page book of 'thou shalt not's," which included no dating, no sleepovers, no social media, no Internet, no television, and no radio. "The funny thing is this was my parents giving me slack," Elisabeth said. "My three older siblings had it much, much worse."
"I was victim-shamed before I was even a victim," she later added, explaining that IBLP beliefs made her insecure and oppressed. "I lived in constant fear of rape. I feared when my sleeves were too short or if I accidentally showed skin between my skirt and my shirt when I lifted my [arms]."
"There was also that lovely fact that Bill Gothard basically advertised that the perfect woman was a size 0," Elisabeth continued. "Usually tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and with an over-groomed but 'natural look.' I was a short little biracial girl, who grew up to be a curvy goddess, and although I was beautiful growing up, I never saw it because [I was taught that] telling myself I was beautiful was vain."
Elisabeth ended her interview by sharing some advice with the Duggar daughters.
"Just go — find someone you trust and ask them to help you get on your feet," she plead. "Because, speaking from personal experience, where you will be is so much better and safer than where you [are] at. And if like me you have a fear of leaving your parents 'authority and protection' for fear of rape, don’t be... Honestly, and speaking from personal experience, you are more likely to get raped where you are in the ATI culture than outside of it."
"Emily" requested to have her real name withheld as she says she was affected by IBLP beliefs and followers, but was not an official member of the system herself.
"I internalized all of the ideas. It wasn’t until I was older and started talking to my mom about what I had experienced did she realize the amount of damage it all had on me," she told In Touch by email. "The damage has left huge scars on my life. I found myself afraid of people. I became a shell of a girl — someone who was afraid of people getting angry at her. I hid in the bathroom (since that door locked) some days and just wished that I could disappear."
She calls the IBLP belief a "cult" and says that she was made to feel like a "horrible slut" because the system "stresses the idea that we must be perfect or else we are somehow less than."
"Women are second-class citizens. There's no doubt about it," Emily adds. "I was always good at school and good at public speaking, but I always felt second to the boys. Often I was smarter and more capable for a leadership position, but I was told to encourage the boys to lead instead. I felt small. Eventually, I started to make myself more docile and submissive. I thought it was what God wanted from me. I thought that it was a measure of my devotion to God how much I submitted. I felt less than everyone around me and it hurt my confidence."
"I am standing for truth," she concluded. "I will continue to speak it to all who will listen if it means protecting another innocent girl, like the girl I once was."
Rebecca Ishum was affiliated with IBLP when she was a teenager, and she says that even the small amount of time she spent in one of their training centers left her feeling "brainwashed."
She explained that, while her upbringing was quite as strict as the Duggars', it was still very restrictive.
"Our parents were sold this bill of goods where if they did XYZ, then they would successfully raise the perfect Christian family," Rebecca told In Touch. "I still grieve for all of the kids...mainly the girls....who are trapped or have spent their lives trying to rewire their brains once they make it out. Most of the girls who are still in that cult don't even realize how trapped they are. It's taken years to get so much of that crap out of my head, and I still have to be a guard against it."
Fortunately for her, Rebecca's parents were able to recognize when something was wrong and they pulled her out of the training center as soon as they realized things were not quite what they seemed.
"Unmarried, childless Bill Gothard had enough charisma that he managed to convince hoards of families that he knew the only right way to raise kids," she said. "Parents were told that if they put their kids in the training, followed the rules, and did all the right things, that they would turn out perfect Christian kids. Friends of mine from back in the day have since told me that I came back from my time in the training center as a totally different person. I imagine my parents saw the shift and decided that it wasn't in our best interest to continue."
Today, Rebecca is a blogger who has remained very outspoken against the IBLP, and has suggestions for the Duggar kids on leaving the religion.
"[If I could talk to the Duggars,] I would start by just listening. You can't go into a situation like that and announce that the belief system that has been created for them has actually trapped them in a box. That is a surefire way to get them to completely and totally shut down and stop the flow of communication," she said.
"So I would start by listening to them. They have goals, desires, passions, interests, and abilities that haven't had a chance to surface underneath all of the rules and regulations that have been heaped on them. I would just sit down and listen to them talk until I could start to get an idea of who they are at their core," Rebecca added. "And then I would tell them to dream bigger than the box they've been given because they can remain a Jesus-follower, but do so in a way that enables their freedom. These girls need help seeing their worth and value for who they are, not what they do."
Jennifer, who requested her last name be withheld, told In Touch, "At the time, [being a part of the IBLP] felt like this really cool thing that you got to do and you felt really holy and godly, like you’re special, like you’re in a different level of Christianity. But looking back, a lot of the teachings were just straight-up strange."
Her parents went to an IBLP conference when she was younger and her whole life changed when they returned.
"They came back from that week and one of the first things my dad said to us was, ‘None of you kids are going to college. Too many godly kids fall away from the faith in college; you’re just not going.’ And at the time I just blindly accepted it," she said, "But now I’m like, Oh my god, what did they say or what did they do to make him change his mind and do a 180 on something he was so passionate about?"
She also explained that she spent much of her youth looking after her siblings. "I did things like carrying babies and taking diapers and caring for children, teaching children," Jennifer said. "I was responsible for my parents’ kids in a way that was not typical for an older sibling."
In addition to her responsibilities looking after her brothers and sisters, Jennifer recalls being raised to believe that women could be physically "punished" by their husbands if they did anything wrong.1comments
"We were truly conditioned to think that if that happened, we deserved it and we were just lucky it wasn’t worse," she said. "I think most of the teenage teachings were teaching boys and men to be predators and teaching girls and women to be victims."
Jennifer did eventually go to college, where she met the man who would be come her husband. She says that years of counseling have helped her unlearn the many things she was taught as a child in the IBLP.