When Josh Duggar was convicted of receiving and possessing child pornography earlier this month, many longtime critics of his family experienced a whirlwind of mixed emotions.
With Josh being locked away there would be one less predator on the street, and the most problematic family in the history of reality television would finally experience some actual repercussions.
Still, this was no time for celebration.
A tragedy had unfolded under Jim Bob and Michelle’s supervision, and for far too long, a predator operated with impunity in a quiet corner of Northwest Arkansas.
Many who watched the trial unfold felt their hearts break for the victims, just as they experienced a profound sense of relief at knowing that Josh would finally be held accountable.
This was not your typical reality television scandal, and it left thousands feeling as though they needed someone to talk to.
And so, the beloved r/DuggarSnark subreddit emerged as a safe place for survivors of sexual assault to discuss the ways in which the trial affected them on a personal level.
According to a new report published by Jezebel, r/DuggarSnark experienced its highest traffic to date during the trial, and much of the content came from survivors seeking to vent their frustration or share their relief with others who have experienced their trauma.
A moderator who goes by the name Estes tells Jezebel that she “never experienced something so crazy” as the surge in traffic that took place during the trial.
“Every day it got more busy,” she said.
“Our mod queue was always filling, it never stayed empty for more than a few seconds.”
A first-time visitor to r/DuggarSnark might be inclined to conclude that during Josh’s trial, the subreddit became something more than just a place to trade jokes about TV’s most ridiculous family.
But the truth is, it’s always been more than that.
From the very beginning of their time on TLC, the Duggars sought to normalize a number of damaging ideas and behaviors, and survivors of cults recognized the danger right away.
And so, online communities emerged to help combat the Duggar messaging that had been platformed and legitimized by TLC.
Longtime followers of the family might remember blogs like “Free Jinger,” which emerged during the early days of 19 Kids and Counting in order to alert viewers of what takes place just off camera in the Duggar household.
Jim Bob and company are members of the Quiverfull movement and the Institute for Basic Life Principles, both disgraced organizations which teach that women are put on earth for the sole purposes of worshipping God and making babies.
Women in these communities are not allowed to work or to divorce their husbands — and of course, the code of silence in the Duggars’ world is enough to rival the Mafia.
Needless to say, it’s the sort of environment in which abuse runs rampant, and predators like Josh are free to continue claiming victims, even after community leaders are made aware of their atrocities.
Many flocked to anti-Duggar corners of the internet as soon as the family became famous,
Many more joined the conversation after it was revealed that Josh had molested five young girls — four of whom were his sisters — but experienced no consequences when his parents were made aware of the attacks.
And as Jim Bob’s empire finally came tumbling down this month, tens of thousands more spoke out against this family and the culture that enabled them to get away with so much for so long.
“It’s interesting [because] people come to [r/DuggarsSnark] to read about the gossip and goings on, but they end up learning about the cult itself, the patriarchal structure, the abuse, the secrets, the harm, the reality that is the Duggar family,” Este told Jezebel.
With any luck, the imprisonment of Josh was just the beginning of the Duggar downfall, and communites like r/DuggarSnark will continue to expose the abuse and hypocrisy that defines life in far too many religious separatist communities.
If there’s any silver lining to the dark cloud of the Duggar abuse network, it’s that it’s prompted good people to find one another so that they might carry out important work.
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