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The Duggar daughters never directly addressed the molestation scandal, instead discussing faith, family and their marriages

By Adam Carlson and Stephen Sawicki
Updated June 21, 2015 10:40 AM
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Credit: Courtesy Jessa Seewald

In their first public appearance since news of the Duggar family’s molestation scandal broke exactly one month ago, Jill (Duggar) Dillard and Jessa (Duggar) Seewald, appeared at the ALIVE Christian Music Festival Saturday to talk faith, marriage and children.

While the sisters never directly addressed the scandal, Jill did say that one of the messages of their hit show, 19 Kids and Counting, is that their family has struggles.

“Hey we re not a perfect family, we mess up,” she told the crowd during a Q&A-style session on the festival’s Beach stage. “Imagine what life is like with a family with two or three kids and multiply that about 10 times over and that’s what you get.”

It was one of the only times either Jill, 24, or Jessa, 22, on stage with husbands Derick and Ben, appeared to go near discussing the news that older brother Josh had molested them, and allegedly molested three other girls, several years ago while all were minors.

Josh and his wife, Anna, were originally scheduled to attend the ALIVE festival to join the discussion with his sisters, but did not appear.

Instead, the event in Mineral City, Ohio, centered on the love between each couple, and the role of faith in their lives – and just a bit of what it can be like, joining a giant family for the first time.

Derick said in some ways God was preparing him for this role: “I was actually the mascot in college, so at birthday events, events for little kids, I d have kids climbing all over me and so I kind of felt the same way whenever I d go over to the Duggars house before we got married, when we were courting.

“It was kind of the same, but now … you don t have a giant head on.”

Both couples also talked about the other major changes in their lives.

The last year has seen a marriage for each; the birth of Jill and Derick’s son, Israel David; and the announcement of Jessa and Ben’s first child (she declined to reveal the sex of the baby Saturday, saying they won’t reveal it until the child is born) and the Seewalds’ desire to adopt.

“We’ve been looking into different options, maybe going through the state or a private adoption agency and that sort of thing,” Jessa said.

But either way, they’ll be held up by the red tape – the state calls for couples to be married for a few years, and private agencies require that a baby in the house be at least 9 months old.

“We still have another year to go,” Jessa said.

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And when the time comes, Jill and Derick will have plenty of on-the-job parenting advice to share.

“Nothing quite explains it like it is actually to deal with. You can’t fully prepare unless you actually become a parent,” Derick said.

And Israel, who is right at 11 weeks old, is “a really good baby,” Jill said. “He started sleeping through the night now, drooling, he s teething.”

It’s been a whirlwind for everyone.

“A year ago we weren’t even married and within a matter of a year – came back to America, got a new job, got engaged, got married, found we re expecting, had a baby. The change in the year to come from the last year, I don’t know if we can out-do it,” Derick said, “but we’ll try.”

While the two families may not have touched on the scandal, fans at the festival were happy to see that they turned out for the event.

Linda Stockner, 59, traveled to the festival from Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo. Her 30-year-old daughter Kelly mainly wanted to see the Duggars. Linda herself doesn t follow the show closely. Of the sisters she said, “I give them credit for going on [with the event] because there are people here who could give them a hard time.”

Beth HousiauxSteward, 52, of Bedford, Ohio, shared her support for Jill and Jessa and echoed the sisters’ frustration at having a juvenile’s record released through the initial report in InTouch.

“I came to support Jill and Jessa,” she said. “They had no business releasing sealed records that was their private business. If juvenile records can be unsealed anytime somebody wants them, that’s not right.”

Sheri Thompson, 46, of Carrollton, Ohio, was in attendance with her four adolescent daughters. They came because they are fans of the show and wanted to show their support for the sisters.

“Especially right now with everything they re going through, we wanted to show our support, to support a family that s been more positive than negative,” she said.

When asked why she thinks the family has been a flashpoint as of late, Thompson said: “As a society it makes us feel better when we can point out someone s wrongs. All I know is that I would not like to be judged as the person I was when I was 14.”