The Most Painful Revelations From Jinger Duggar's New Book

The following article includes references to disordered eating, child sex abuse images, and allegations of sexual assault and religious abuse.

Viewers first met Jinger Duggar's ever-expanding family when they appeared in the 2004 television special "14 Children and Pregnant Again!" Parents Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar kept reproducing, and a series of specials eventually evolved into the long-running TLC series "19 Kids and Counting."

In their 2011 book "A Love That Multiplies," Michelle and Jim Bob revealed that their kids weren't allowed to watch television, despite appearing on a reality show, and Michelle explained why she homeschooled them, writing, "I felt the Lord impressing upon me the importance of getting His Word into my children's hearts and minds." Despite her sheltered upbringing, Jinger would co-author her own book as a teenager: "Growing Up Duggar." In it, Jinger and three of her sisters — Jana Duggar, Jill Duggar, and Jessa Duggar — parroted some of the teachings passed onto them by their parents, who were members of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a Christian organization founded by Bill Gothard. The Duggar sisters shared the rules of their modest dress code, which forbade them from showing their shoulders, and they preached about the dangers of listening to that ol' evangelical bogeyman: rock music.

In 2023, Jinger released another book titled "Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear." She told BuzzFeed News that one reason she wrote it is because she regrets some of teachings she promoted in "Growing Up Duggar." She also delves into the darker side of growing up Duggar that TLC viewers didn't get to see. These are the most painful revelations from Jinger Duggar's new book.

She realized her life was like The Truman Show

In November 2016, Jinger Duggar married Jeremy Vuolo, a former professional soccer goalie who later became a pastor. In "Becoming Free Indeed," Duggar reveals that she and Vuolo didn't get an opportunity to watch a film together until they were on their honeymoon. Their pick was the 1998 Jim Carrey dramedy "The Truman Show," which is about a man who discovers that his entire life has been filmed for a reality show. 

"I had never seen it before. (That's something I can say about a lot of movies!)," Duggar writes. This is because the former "Counting On" star's parents placed severe restrictions on the films their kids could watch. Per "Growing Up Duggar," most of the modern fare they deemed acceptable was specifically targeted towards a Christian audience. (They even found a pre-marital kissing scene in the 1941 film "Sergeant York" a bit too spicy.)

According to Duggar, "The Truman Show" was also preaching to the choir — in her case, at least. She saw numerous similarities between the movie's main character and herself, writing, "Many people from the outside world have opinions and expectations about who Truman should be and how he should live." Duggar also notes that others prevent Truman from leaving the bubble where he's ensconced with the cameras that record his every move. "After we finished the movie, I turned to Jeremy and said, 'That movie is my life,'" she recalls.

Jinger Duggar cried when her family's reality career ended

In 2021, Jinger Duggar and Jeremy Vuolo co-authored "The Hope We Hold: Finding Peace in the Promises of God." In the book, Jinger recalls her wide-eyed excitement over watching her family's first documentary "14 Children and Pregnant Again!" on DVD. "I grinned so hard my cheeks hurt," she writes. The entire family was pleased with the end results, but Jinger couldn't have predicted that it was the start of a rocky 14-year reality career.

In 2015, TLC canceled the Duggars' series "19 Kids and Counting" after InTouch published police reports detailing how Jinger's oldest brother, Josh Duggar, had allegedly molested some of his younger sisters when he was a minor. The show was quickly replaced with the Josh-free spinoff "Counting On," but TLC decided against keeping any of the Duggars on TV after Josh was indicted for receiving child sexual abuse material in 2021, per USA Today

At the time, Jinger published an Instagram post saying that she supported TLC's decision to end the show, but in "Becoming Free Indeed," she confesses that she cried when it was canceled. "So many emotions poured out of me that day. I felt sad," Jinger recalls. "Filming had been a constant in my life since I was around ten years old." In a January 2023 interview with The List, she further explained that the series' crew members had basically become part of the family, which made the cancellation even harder.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She had an eating disorder

In "Becoming Free Indeed," Jinger Duggar speculates that being thrust in front of the camera at a young age and subjected to the scrutiny of millions of strangers possibly played a part in her developing a fixation on her weight. She started putting pressure on herself to look perfect, confessing that she worried a great deal about what others thought about her. 

"Convinced my body was an embarrassment, I ate very little. I'd go days hardly consuming any calories," she writes. "My weight dropped, but my body image didn't improve. It almost never does in those situations because the weight isn't the problem." Jinger previously opened up about her eating disorder in a 2021 Us Weekly interview, revealing that her struggle started at age 14.

Jinger reveals in "Becoming Free Indeed" that she eventually spoke to her mother about what she was going through, knowing that Michelle Duggar had once struggled with disordered eating herself. Michelle then started checking in with her daughter to make sure that she was consuming a healthy amount of calories each day. While Jinger told Us Weekly that she continued to find herself fretting over her figure on occasion, her husband, Jeremy Vuolo, became another positive influence in her life who was able to help her work through her body image issues. "He listens well," she said. "It's amazing, like, just being open and talking about those things when they do come up."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Jinger Duggar finds her family's views on modesty disturbing now

Jinger Duggar reflects back on some of the more harmful teachings of the IBLP and Bill Gothard in "Becoming Free Indeed," including the reason girls are told to wear modest apparel. "If someone struggled with impure thoughts because of something I wore, then I bore some responsibility for that person's sin," Jinger writes. 

Her own mother, Michelle Duggar, admitted that she was responsible for instilling this belief in her daughters from childhood. In a 2013 TLC Parentables post, Michelle revealed that she encouraged them rock shirts with high necklines and skirts with long hemlines to avoid "defrauding" potential sinners. "My kids are taught the definition of defrauding as stirring up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled," she wrote. Michelle also told PopSugar that she felt guilty about wearing a bikini to do yardwork during her pre-IBLP days, saying, "[I] had no idea what I was doing to my neighbor's husband across the street."

After rejecting the IBLP's teachings, Jinger saw the dangerous flaw in this line of thinking. "That logic shifts blame away from the individual committing the sin," she writes in her memoir. "In extreme circumstances, it can put blame on the victims of assault instead of the abusers." According to Jinger, Gothard allegedly did subscribe to victim-blaming ideologies. Recovery Grace has even shared IBLP materials blaming young girls for their own molestation by their brother, suggesting that he targeted them because they weren't covered up enough.

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Her parents' rules made getting to know her future husband challenging

"Counting On" followed Jinger Duggar and Jeremy Vuolo's relationship journey, so viewers got their umpteenth rundown of the Duggars' famous courtship rules. Joseph Duggar listed off a few during a 2016 episode: "You can do side hugs. No frontal hugs, no holding hands, no kissing." Aaand cut to Jinger saying, "I think it's different for each person." Joy-Anna Duggar also explained that courting is different from dating because it's never casual; it means that both parties involved are interested in marriage.

In "Becoming Free Indeed," Jinger expresses her frustration with another courtship rule that her parents strictly enforce: dates must be chaperoned. She explains that she liked Vuolo but wasn't yet certain whether she considered him marriage material. Jinger really wanted to get to know him on a deeper level before making such a critical determination, but her parents' restrictions made this impossible. "When we were with each other in person, we had a chaperone, which a lot of times was one of my younger siblings," she writes. "We obviously didn't want to have those important discussions that every couple needs to have if a brother or sister was in earshot." 

Jinger later told People that she now finds her family's rules funny and no longer sees anything wrong with dating. "I've seen more people honor God — and live a very beautiful life — who have dated, and sometimes even better than courtship," she revealed.

She wasn't comfortable sharing her truth in her own diary

Once upon a time, the Duggars actually invited fans into their home, and one guest managed to snatch Jinger Duggar's diary. The family learned of the theft when someone informed that they saw it on eBay, where it was priced at $100,000. After realizing what happened, the Duggars seemed to basically shame the sticky-fingered fan into returning it. "The experience provided good lessons to teach the children: first, that we can't trust everybody, and second, that we need to forgive others even before they ask," Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar write in "A Love That Multiplies." 

But Jinger's parents were the ones inviting strangers over constantly, and in "The Hope We Hold," Jinger reveals that she even had to vacate her bed so that some of their random house guests had somewhere to sleep. Meanwhile, in "Becoming Free Indeed," Jinger shares the sad reason why she wasn't worried about any bed-borrowing book bandits discovering salacious secrets in her journal. While thumbing back through its pages years later, she realized that she was so insecure about who she really was underneath her smiling television façade that even her diary became performative. 

"I'm struck by what is missing. I was afraid to say the wrong thing — to confess my inner desires even in a diary," Jinger writes. "I didn't express any of the feelings and fears that were a constant part of my childhood."

Jinger Duggar's life was governed by fear

According to Jinger Duggar, one of Bill Gothard's most effective tools was allegedly fear. "All I had to do was deposit the exact lifestyle Gothard advocated, and I would withdraw health, money, a wonderful husband, and a bushel of godly kids. But this cause-and-effect view was also terrifying because I thought I would experience devastating consequences for any mistakes I made," she writes in "Becoming Free Indeed."

This fear and uncertainty gained such a tight grip on Duggar that she found it difficult to make simple decisions. In an interview with People, she recalled grappling with whether it would be okay for her to play broomball with her family instead of studying her Bible. "I thought I could be killed in a car accident on the way," she said of what she feared might happen if she chose the former option. 

Apparently, Gothard loved to use car crash anecdotes to instill the fear of God in his followers. Speaking to Fox News, Duggar recalled Gothard sharing a story about a young driver who met an untimely end because he was listening to rock music behind the wheel. It left quite an impression on her; upon hearing the sinister sound of a rock beat thumping on a car radio, she went into panic mode. "I just thought, 'Goodness, this is it. We're going to have a car accident because somebody turned this on,'" Duggar said. "I was so fearful. It just consumed my life."

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Adjusting to life outside the Duggar household wasn't easy

In an appearance on the "Relatable" podcast, Jinger Duggar explained why she lived at home with her parents well into adulthood. Bill Gothard apparently taught his followers that there's a patriarchal household hierarchy called "the umbrella of authority." God is at the top, husbands are underneath him, wives must submit to their husbands, per Salon, and kids get the short end of the umbrella crook. "If you come out from under their authority by moving out of the home, by getting a job, then you're opening yourself up to Satan's attacks because you don't have an umbrella," Duggar said. "That's what I believed wholeheartedly, and that's why I stayed."

When she married Jeremy Vuolo, Duggar finally got to leave the nest. The couple initially settled in Laredo, Texas, where the "Counting On" cameras filmed them trying on sombreros and buying Mexican candy. The move was a massive culture shock for Duggar, who had lived in Arkansas her entire life. In "Becoming Free Indeed," she details her struggle to make meaningful connections with people outside her family. Her anxiety and worry over the way others perceived her didn't help, and she even burst into tears while trying to converse with a member of her church. 

"The pressure of figuring out what to say, combined with the fear of saying the wrong thing, became overwhelming," she writes. "... Moments like that almost didn't feel real. They were more like out-of-body experiences."

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Jinger Duggar's husband compared her to a Stepford wife

In "Becoming Free Indeed," Jinger Duggar claims that Bill Gothard taught his female followers to be meek and submissive. The preaching struck a chord; while recalling what her first year of marriage was like, she writes, "I never expressed an opinion." She admits that she initially treated her marriage to Jeremy Vuolo like a performance, but Vuolo didn't want her to play the role that Gothard seemingly had written for her and all other female IBLP followers. Per Jinger, her husband would sometimes tell her, "'Jing, you're not a Stepford wife.'" She had no clue what Vuolo was talking about, so he had to explain that he was comparing her to the spouse-replacing androids that are programmed to be creepily servile in "The Stepford Wives" films.

In a 2012 interview with AOP, a provider of Christian homeschooling materials, Michelle Duggar revealed that she expected her children to behave similarly. The long list of rules Jinger and her siblings had to follow included: "Show joyful attitudes even when no one is looking," "Always display kind actions, even if you have been mistreated," and "Never raise an eye to scowl." Jinger became so determined to always adopt a pleasant demeanor that she wouldn't even complain when a restaurant served her a dish with an inedible addition. 

"I assume that I must be happy and see everything in a positive light, even if there's glass in my food," she writes in "Becoming Free Indeed."

Realizing the alleged dark truth about Bill Gothard

On the "Relatable" podcast, Jinger Duggar recalled how her father, Jim Bob Duggar, made Jeremy Vuolo watch over 60 hours of Bill Gothard's seminars before he could get engaged to Jinger. Unfortunately for her pops, Jinger says that this is when she started questioning Gothard's teachings. She watched them along with Vuolo, and he would stop and point out flaws in the religious leader's legalistic views. Soon, Jinger was viewing a man she once revered in a much different light. "I can't say like, 'Oh, it was a cult,'" she said of Gothard's ministry, "but I can say very cult-like in nature."

In "Becoming Free Indeed," Jinger also mentions Gothard's sexual abuse scandal. He resigned from the IBLP in 2014 after multiple former members accused him of sexual harassment, per Chicago magazine. Some of the victims alleged that they were underage when Gothard took advantage of his leadership position to prey upon them. In a lawsuit that a group of the women filed against Gothard, the plaintiffs wrote, "It was common for people to joke about [his] 'harem.'"

According to Jinger, she and her sisters had a different name for these young women: "Gothard's Girls." In her book, she recalls having a laugh over putting on a blonde wig and pretending to be one of the girls recruited to join Gothard's staff. "Now, after everything that's happened over the past ten years, I realize the joke wasn't funny," she writes.

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Jinger Duggar opened up about brother Josh's 'hypocrisy'

In "Becoming Free Indeed," Jinger Duggar briefly addresses Josh Duggar's imprisonment on charges of receiving child sexual abuse material. She compares him to Bill Gothard, seemingly referencing the sexual abuse allegations against the former IBLP leader. "One of the hardest realities in my life is that my brother Josh very publicly displayed some of the same hypocrisy as Gothard," she writes. Jinger also makes mention of Josh's old job working for the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative organization that lobbies against LGBTQ+ rights and abortion. "While he looked the part in so many ways, the true Josh appears to be much different. He was living a lie," says Jinger.

Per People, Josh resigned from his position as the Executive Director of FRC Action in 2015 after InTouch published its report about his molestation allegations. Gothard told the Daily Mail that Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar turned to him for help after Josh was accused of inappropriately touching his sisters and another girl. Gothard sent Josh to an IBLP center, where the then-teen performed manual labor and was counseled by a Christian mentor. "He certainly learnt his lesson and now he will have a whole new respect for young ladies," said Gothard. 

But in her book, Jinger calls Gothard out for being wrong and failing to help her brother. "Gothard's rules can't transform anyone," she writes. "... What Gothard and my brother Josh need is a new heart that only Jesus can give."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She risks being shunned by sharing her story

Jinger Duggar opens "Becoming Free Indeed" by pointing out how difficult it can be for someone to cut ties with a community that managed to infiltrate almost every aspect of their life. But that's exactly what she decided to do by rejecting the religious principles that would remain important to many of her family members and friends. For Duggar, leaving the IBLP also meant potentially losing friends. 

"I may not be invited to events and into homes. Some may not appreciate that I'm speaking out on this topic," she writes. "Others could assume the worst of my motives." Speaking to The List, Duggar confessed that she was reticent about sharing her story because she feared the inevitable backlash. "As I was writing the book, there were many days where I would just cry. I was like, 'Is this worth it? Is this what I'm supposed to do?'" she said. Knowing that there were others who had weathered similar storms gave her the courage to push on, as did knowing that her story might help readers.

Duggar also spoke to ET about how her family members reacted to her book, revealing that there was a divide between those who had joined her in leaving the IBLP and those who had not. "Some were more excited for me to share this story, while others may agree to disagree because they have their own opinions," she said.

Jinger Duggar doesn't really want to be free

In "Becoming Free Indeed," Jinger Duggar acknowledges the Free Jinger forum, a snarky online community that possesses a wealth of knowledge about notable Christian fundamentalist families. Here's the forum's explanation for why it's named after her: "Jinger is one of the middle Duggar daughters, and the only one who shows a spark of life. If anyone is going to break out of the Duggar Borg, our money is on Jinger. One theory is that she resents her name being misspelled just so her family could keep their J streak going." 

While Jinger finds it sorta sweet that a large group of strangers was rooting for her to enjoy unrestrained freedom, if "Becoming Free Indeed" readers were expecting her to go full-on secular woke warrior and announce that she was going to start living by her own rules, they were sorely disappointed. At the beginning of the book, Duggar explains that it's mostly about how she's keeping her Christian faith fully intact while picking out the Gothardy bits. She writes a lot about her struggle to overcome her many fears but admittedly never gathers up the courage to attempt to navigate life without someone else's guidance. 

"I've come to see that unfettered freedom does not produce the good life. In the end, it often leads to more bondage," Jinger Duggar explains. "Why? Because it puts me in charge of my life, and I am not the best judge of what is best for me."