As Josh Duggar awaits his trail on child pornography charges, one big question I keep hearing from people regards his wife Anna. Will she leave Josh or allow him back in their home with their six (soon to be seven) children? Josh ‘s release on bail stipulates that he will live with family friends so he isn’t currently home with his wife. However, it’s unlikely Anna will leave Josh as her fundamentalist Christian beliefs stipulate marriage for life and emphasize that a woman’s primary role is a wife and mother.
Anna has no college education or vocational training. Even if she wanted to leave she would struggle to support her family. When Josh and Anna married in 2008, Anna was aware that Josh had molested five underage girls but noted she felt “he had been humbled by God.”1 Even though she knew about Josh’s issues prior to marriage, it’s difficult to imagine that eighteen-year-old Anna could fully understand what she was walking into.
She and Josh had meet at a homeschooling conference (most likely an ATI Conference) when she was a teenager and the first season of 17 Kids and Counting centers around Josh’s proposal to Anna on her eighteenth birthday and their subsequent wedding plans.
Conservative and evangelical Christian culture tries to erect walls around women until marriage, viewing their virginity as a gift for their husband. In the first season of 17 Kids and Counting, Josh refers to the popular evangelical book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and notes that both he and Anna had protected their hearts and saved themselves just for each other. The viewers see Josh and Anna leaving for their honeymoon listening to Christian intimacy tapes in their car. What’s clear is at least Anna was very naive prior to marriage.2
Jump ahead to 2015 when the Duggar family finds out Josh has cheated on Anna. In an interview with TLC Anna is quite open about her feelings regarding Josh’s behavior. As she says, “My only hope was to cling to my faith because I know if I went off of what I was feeling I would turn a mess into a disaster.” 3 She calls his behavior a betrayal not just of their marriage vows but of their image as a Christian couple who were married on television and have largely had their marriage unfold in the public view. In that same interview, Jinger Duggar credits Anna as an example of “unconditional love.” The viewers see Anna caring for her young children as she stayed with Michelle and Jim Bob during the time Josh was in rehab.
As details have emerged after Josh’s first court appearance, we know that Anna was his primary accountability partner. The couple had installed a Christian accountability software program called Covenant Eyes on Josh’s computer. The software is meant to block objectionable content and periodically capture screenshots of Internet activity that it sends to a person’s ally. In Josh’s case, Josh had a separate password protected network that he used to view pornography.4
As I noted in the previous article, what Josh Duggar is struggling with are severe mental health issues which go beyond what is commonly called “sex addition” in Christian culture. Josh’s obsession with pornography and underage girls goes back to his teen years and clearly stems from other underlying issues.
We should pity Anna Duggar who now has a husband who she now has to worry about as he interacts with their children. If she were to leave Josh she would have to leave behind her extended family and community which is something I don’t see her doing. So, as she noted in 2015 all she can do is pray for strength as Josh goes to trial.
1 Lock, S. (2021, April 30). Josh Duggar Faces Judge After Arrest: What We Know About Reality Star’s Life Now. Newsweek. https://www.newsweek.com/josh-duggar-arrest-jail-court-reality-star-life-now-1587711
2 “19 Kids and Counting” A Very Duggar Wedding (TV Episode 2009). (2009, January 26). IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1367480/
3 TLC. (2015, December 16). Anna Duggar Opens Up About Her Husband’s Betrayal [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwUYONHoREI
4 Chung, G., & Mauch, A. (2021, May 6). Josh Duggar’s Computer Had Software That Would Report Internet Porn Usage to Wife Anna: Officials. PEOPLE.Com. https://people.com/tv/josh-duggar-computer-had-software-that-would-report-his-internet-porn-usage-to-wife-anna/