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The Duggars Spin-Off Is A Disservice to Sexual Assault Survivors

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Yesterday TLC released the first promo for their upcoming 19 Kids and Counting spin-off Jill and Jessa: Counting On -- and in the wake of the scandal surrounding the family, it's disturbing to say the least. 

For those of you out of the loop, earlier this year Jill and Jessa's older brother, Josh Duggar, admitted to molesting underage girls as a teen, including both sisters -- leading to TLC to cancel their long-running reality series. Still, the network has come back, most likely when they realized they could, uh, continue making money off of family drama. First with their Breaking the Silence documentary, which followed the women as they grappled with the aftermath of these abuse allegations, and now this spin-off series, focusing on two survivors of sexual assault in their capacity as public figures.  

There's something really off-putting about the entire ordeal, which feels more like an exercise in exploitation than anything else -- especially when we see both sisters tearing up in the promo at having to relive a traumatic childhood event that have left scars on national television. At one point in the promo, Jill sobs, saying she's still processing what happened. "You're angry and hurt and all those emotions all mixed together. I cry a lot of tears, I still do. I know I'm hurting." If that doesn't scream "Leave her alone with a healthy support system," then I really don't know what does.


Because while some may argue that they've grown up in the spotlight, it's a spotlight they were shoved into as a part of their parents' plan to "spread the word about their faith," lest we also forget that the Duggars were allegedly "heartbroken" over the show's cancellation. 

These women should be able to recuperate and heal in their own time, a process that survivors of sexual assault will tell you does not disappear in a few months (let alone ever). Instead, the situation reeks of coercion, a campaign to do a spin-off that will help the entire family and subsequent franchise save face in the wake of a scandal that arguably went against the values of their entire viewership (or, you know, most of the world).

To compound the icky-ness, to let TLC and their parents exploit the idea of "family," who are arguably their only support system at this trying time, is ghastly -- not to mention making Jill and Jessa focus on being optimistic and "excited for what the future holds" rather than take the ample time they need away from intense public scrutiny. You know, the kind of vitriolic anonymous hate that's allowed a ton of disparaging commenters to call them "inbreds".

And while one could also say that Jill and Jessa are both consenting adults and able to make their own decisions about whether or not they want to air their grievances on reality TV, there's also a pretty dangerous message attached to this whole affair. One that tells survivors of sexual assault that pretending shit's fine is totally okay; that moving on in your life is the most effective way to deal with your trauma -- when the key is, you know, ample support from loved ones and reemergence at one's own pace; a process which more often than not takes years or a lifetime. A process I would imagine isn't helped by having a reality TV show.

Either way, we wish Jill and Jessa the best. Stay strong, ladies, in the midst of all the bullshit.

[h/tET]


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