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‘Shiny Happy People’ Depicts Duggar Family as Part of a Fundamentalist Movement With a Culture of Abuse

Heath said of IBLP, “They want young, innocent, sweet girls, not women.”

Interviewees also talked about the “parentification” that takes place among children high in the birth order of a “quiverfull” family, many of whom are expected to provide the emotional and practical support for the younger children in the family that a parent normally would. 

“I was like my siblings’ surrogate mom,” said Eve Ettinger. “I had been at the birth and done night duty, and done feedings. And I was so tired, so tired all the time.” 

Interviewees also criticized IBLP’s training for parents, which encouraged regular spankings and “blanket training,” in which a 6-month-olds are placed on a blanket and spanked every time they move off of it, in order to “break their rebellious spirit.” 

“Everything about it sets you up to be the perfect victim [of abuse],” said Ettinger. 

Marriages in IBLP teachings are meant to be the result of courtship rather than dating, and women are seen as under the authority of their fathers until they are transferred to the authority of their husbands at their weddings.

Levins, who had been married under this system, described being raped on her wedding night and suffering abuse throughout her marriage under a “domestic discipline contract.”

Jill said, “IBLP and the teachings draw in people like my dad who want this control. It can foster a cult-like environment.”

“I absolutely think that people would be drawn to that,” she added. 

Episode 3: Under Authority

The third episode returned to the 2015 Fox News interviews in which Jim Bob, Michelle, Jill, and Jessa Duggar defended Josh Duggar after the sexual abuse he had committed against his sisters came to light, citing the television appearance as an example of the culture of control that exists within the Duggar family, as well as for others who follow Gothard’s teachings.

Speaking about the interview, Jill said, “I don’t like to even talk about it because it’s not something that I’m proud of,” adding that if she had felt the freedom to refuse doing it, she would have.

“We were taken advantage of,” Jill added. The documentary noted that when TLC created a spin-off show focusing on Jill and Jessa after “19 Kids and Counting” was canceled amid revelations of Josh’s sexual misconduct, the two sisters returned to reality television “on the back of their own abuse stories.” 

Recounting how they came to be married, Jill and her husband Derick said that Derick was hand-selected by Jim Bob to court Jill. 

“Courtship has to be understood in terms of patriarchal authority,” argued Christian historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez. “It’s about sexual purity, but, more than that, it’s about control.” 

Just before they were married, Jill and Derick said that they were asked by Jim Bob to sign a contract from Discovery, which owns TLC. They only later found out that they had committed the next five years of their lives to “19 Kids and Counting,” which included the couple providing footage of the birth of their first child—against their personal wishes.

The couple alleged that they were not compensated for being on the show, as all remuneration went to Jim Bob. 

Later, Jim Bob reportedly offered to pay some of his older children a lump sum, provided they sign an indefinite agreement to appear in programs and on shows at his request. Jill and Derick said they refused to sign, leading to a falling out with the family.

The episode went on to describe the IBLP training centers to which teens and young adults were sent, characterizing them as highly controlled environments in which young people were subjected to long hours of physical labor and spiritual abuse. 

RELATED: ‘There Is No Shame in Divorcing Josh,’ Says Anna Duggar’s Cousin in Open Letter

“If you were in trouble, they would lock you in the prayer room for hours, up to days, up to weeks,” said Lara Smith. “It was just an empty hotel room with no furniture, and they would give you a Bible, until they thought you were appropriately repentant. And that was wildly up to other kids—team leaders.”