Josh Duggar-Inspired Child Abuse Special: 'Breaking the Silence'

Breaking the Silence is the hour-long, commercial-free special that TLC decided to air on Sunday night as a kind of penance-by-proxy in the wake of the Josh Duggar sexual-abuse scandal. The network that brought us the now-canceled 19 Kids and Counting presented what amounted to an hour-long public-service announcement, featuring profiles of abuse victims and resources for viewers.

The special profiled five victims of childhood sexual abuse, and gave viewers a phone number (1-800-656-HOPE) and websites ( and to contact for help and more information. TLC partnered with RAINN — the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network — to produce Breaking the Silence. Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald, the two Duggar daughters who were the victims of Josh’s predatory actions, were seen attending a RAINN seminar under the watchful eyes of their mother, Michelle.


Erin Merryn

Each daughter made a few brief comments in the context of the seminar, but they were not the focus of Breaking the Silence. Instead, the hour focused on five people, including Erin Merryn, now an adult who writes books and lectures about her past and about what can be done to prevent child abuse, and Cheryl Burke, a dancer best known from Dancing With the Stars, who told her story of childhood abuse.

Related: Josh Duggar, Molestation and the Hypocrisy of Reality TV

The special included a list of five suggestions, as presented in the seminar, that any parent or caregiver can use: “1. Learn the Facts; 2. Minimize Opportunity; 3. Talk About It; 4. Recognize the Signs; 5. React Responsibly.”

Breaking the Silence was in production before the latest Josh Duggar news items — the revelation-by-hacking that he was a client of the Ashley Madison service; that he’s checked into rehab; that he issued a statement that began, “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever.” It would require another, completely different-topic special to address Josh’s subsequent bad behavior. One assumes TLC is relieved it canceled the Duggars’ show before this most recent round of Josh-related disasters.