When Jim Bob Duggar became aware that his eldest son was allegedly molesting underage girls, the family decided to handle the incident privately instead of immediately reporting the accusations to police.
Sixteen months elapsed between the time Jim Bob learned of his son’s self-admitted “wrongdoing” and Josh Duggar‘s official admission to Arkansas state trooper Cpl. Hutchins – who gave him a "very stern talk" but did not press charges, according to police reports obtained by InTouch but which have now been expunged.
Sometime between Josh’s confession to his father and his formal confession to police, Josh spent time at a facility called the Institute in Basic Life Principles Training Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, PEOPLE has confirmed.
The center claims to “strengthen individuals and families through sound Biblical teachings and character development opportunities and to demonstrate Christ’s love through serving,” as posted on their official website. Jim Bob would later tell police Josh was in the program from March 17, 2003 to July 17, 2003.
The methods employed by the institute have received numerous criticisms from alumni and online forums. John Krull, Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union has called the center “appalling” and a “shadow world, where these kids almost disappear.” The Institute in Basic Life Principles Training Center has been the subject of a local Child Protective Services investigation, and its principal, Rodger Gergeni, has denied allegations of maltreatment.
Last year, at 79-years-old, founder Bill Gothard was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting 34 women, and resigned his position at the institute.
The Duggar’s decision to send Josh to the program in lieu of contacting authorities could be explained by the family’s deep rooted connections to Gothard and his teachings.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have long been proponents of the Advanced Training Institute, a homeschooling program based on Bible teachings, which was at one point run by Gothard.
ATI offers many Christian based lessons and outlines for homeschooling programs, in addition to detailed courses on how to handle sexual indiscretions between family members.
In one chapter, titled “Lessons From Moral Failures in a Family,” the program offers guidelines on how to react if “an older brother was guilty of sexually abusing younger ones in his family,” according to documents obtained by Gawker. In the alleged ATI teachings, after a period of repentance, the older brother is asked questions such as “What teaching could have been given to each child to resist evil?” and “What factors in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation?”
The passage goes on to warn of the potential consequences of such a scandal: “The damage to the younger children, the ridicule to the cause of Christ, the shame of detailed publicity, and the scars to the life and reputation of the boy were indescribably painful to the family and their friends.”
Josh Duggar Speaks Out About Molestation Reports
While there is no evidence the Duggars followed these teachings, their long association with the institute is well documented. As Gawker notes, Jim Bob Duggar and Gothard have appeared in photographs together, and “Jim Bob and Michelle were listed as speakers at last month’s ATI Family Conference in Big Sandy, Texas.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Josh Duggar said, “I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” says Josh. “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”