'Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets' — The Biggest Revelations from Prime Video's Explosive Docuseries

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All four episodes of 'Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets' premiered on Prime Video Friday — and PEOPLE is breaking down the biggest revelations to emerge from the docuseries



A lot of shocking details about the Duggar family — and their controversial religion, the Institute in Basic Life Principles — were exposed in Prime Video's Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets docuseries.

The four-part limited series, which premiered on Friday, explored the wholesome family's troubling ties to a radical religious organization. In doing so, it showed how the organization has shaped — and negatively impacted — the once-beloved TLC brood, which has since faced a bevy of scandals. It also explores the depths to which the organization has gone to entrench itself within higher political systems, and the various levels of abuse that target its most vulnerable members.

Though Duggar family heads Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's way of raising their many children, as well as IBLP, take center stage in the project, so does the controversy surrounding eldest sibling Josh Duggar. (Josh previously confessed to sexually abusing children — including two of his sisters — as a teen and cheated on his wife Anna Duggar. He was sentenced in May 2022 to more than 12 years in prison for possessing and receiving child pornography.)



Jill (Duggar) Dillard and her husband Derick DillardAmy (Duggar) King and her husband Dillon King, and Jim Bob's sister Deanna Jordan all make appearances in the series.

Here are the biggest revelations.

Josh Duggar's parents never planned to confess his sexual abuse to his first girlfriend — or her family — until they were married.

Before marrying Anna in September 2008, Josh had initially asked family friend Jim Holt — a longtime pal of Jim Bob's — to court his eldest daughter Kaleigh "for the purpose of marriage." But little did the Holt family know that Josh and his family had been keeping his sexual abuse a secret, which they initially learned in 2003.

"He had apparently been doing it since he was 12, but we found out about it when he was 15," Jim Holt said. "[We said], 'When were you gonna tell us?' And Michelle said, 'We weren't gonna have them tell you guys at all. We were gonna have Josh confess to Kaleigh once they were married.' And so I asked, 'So, are you basically saying you were going to use my daughter as like, a carrot, to get him to behave the right way?' And [Jim Bob] goes, 'Well, yeah. Kind of.'"

Related: A History of the Ups & Downs of the Duggar Family

Recalling how Jim Bob — a former politician — had drafted a bill for the sex offender's website, Jim Holt said to his then-friend: "I said, 'Jim Bob, according to your own bill and that you've written and what you've told me, your son should be on it. He needs to make it right with the law because he violated the law and he needs to turn himself in.'"

Jim Holt claimed Josh Duggar confessed to State Trooper Joseph Hutchens, who ultimately did nothing with his omission because he was friends with Jim Bob Duggar.

After Jim Holt found out about what Josh had done, Jim Bob invited him to join the father-son pair at the State Troopers' office, where the eldest Duggar sibling would confess to his wrongdoing. But nothing actually came of it.

"The State Trooper sat down and he told him the story. Josh told him what we thought at the time was everything he had done," Jim Holt recalled. "He said, 'Imma let you go this time,' and he said, 'But if you do it again, I'm really gonna come down hard on you.'"

Jim Holt continued, "We found out later that this guy [Joseph Hutchens] was a friend of Jim Bob's."

Josh Duggar's parents sent him to a facility for "troubled boys" after his sexual abuse confession.

Jim Holt's wife, Bobye Holt, recalled how Jim Bob was concerned about what to do with Josh after the confession. In believing it's best to "get him out of the house," Josh was sent to IBLP founder Bill Gothard's facility for "troubled boys" in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Looking back on that time, Amy Duggar King said she had wondered where Josh was. However, she was told, "Oh, he is helping families build homes." But Amy instantly "knew something was off."

While Josh was away, his family prepared to do their Parents photoshoot and interview, which eventually led to them receiving their own series. Josh wasn't present for the occasion but his parents later "brought him back" early, saying it was for Jim Bob's birthday.

<p>Kris Connor/Getty </p>

Kris Connor/Getty

After Josh Duggar's abuse was revealed, Jill Duggar Dillard and Jessa Duggar Seewald's infamous Megyn Kelly interview occurred in order to save the family's show.

Jill and her husband Derick Dillard said Jim Bob hired Mike Huckabee's political advisor, Chad Gallagher, to help guide the family after Josh's sexual abuse omission surfaced. At the time, Gallagher arranged an interview with Megyn Kelly at Fox News to "get it to where TLC would be cool with moving forward with the show," Jill claimed.

"In hindsight, I wouldn't have done the Megyn Kelly stuff," Jill said before tearing up. "I felt like I was in a place again of bearing the burden and the weight ... Even though you volunteer, you feel obligated to help."

But Derick said he wouldn't "call it voluntary" because they were being "called on to carry out a suicide mission," noting that they were forced to "take the fall" because "the show could not fail."

Related: Duggar Family — and Their Religion — Exposed in Explosive Prime Video Docuseries Featuring Jill and Amy (Exclusive)

"They were going to do whatever they could to get the return on their investment," he added. "If that meant collateral damage, that meant collateral damage."

Jill's cousin Amy Duggar King also pointed out that the interview felt "a little bit scripted" and "forced."

Following Josh Duggar's arrest for sexual abuse materials possession, his sister Jill was "prepared" to speak out against him in court.

The prosecution in Josh's case was looking into the possibility of using the prior molestation allegations as evidence against him. Because that directly impacted Jill, she had "prepared" herself to take the stand.

"Nobody obviously wants to testify, but I was prepared to testify against my brother," she said. "I guess they got what they needed from somebody else and didn't have to have me testify."

<p>Courtesy of Prime Video</p>

Courtesy of Prime Video

Though Jill didn't participate, former family friend Bobye Holt did take the stand. "The jury got to see that there was a pattern in Josh's life that he began early on, and he got by with it time and time again," said Bobye, who called the experience a "relief" once it was over.

Jim Bob Duggar allegedly cheated his children out of being financially compensated for the TLC series — and they didn't have control over what goes.

The Duggar kids didn't have much of a choice when it came to filming.

Jill Duggar Dillard said her dad Jim made the children sign a contract, stating their five-year commitment to the TLC show, without telling them what they were agreeing to. Jill also claimed that her parents "signed for a bunch of the kids who were no longer minors."

When the time came around for Jill to deliver her first child, her husband Derek Dillard said they "lost" the fight in not having the intimate moment filmed. "We did diary cams, we did a lot of work. So they still got the footage," Jill added.

But what's worse, Jill and her fellow Duggar women were not being compensated financially for doing so. "After Israel's birth, we asked TLC to pay us enough just to cover what our out-of-pocket costs were for health insurance for Israel's birth," Jill said as Derek added, "They said they paid the family. 'Paid the family' means we don't get anything at that point. They said, 'Well, we paid your dad, so take it up with him.'"

Related: Jill Duggar Dillard Says She Wasn&#39;t Paid for Time on Reality Show: &#39;We Had to Get an Attorney&#39;

Throughout her run on the show, Jill said she "never received any payout. No check, no cash, no nothing." "For seven and a half years of my adult life, I was never paid," she added.

Jill and Derek's relationship with TLC "came to an end" when they realized that in order for Jim Bob to compensate them, they would have to agree to sign a "forever" deal with her dad's production company.

TLC allegedly helped cover the costs of getting the Duggar family's home TV ready.

The small Arkansas house featured in the network's initial Duggar-centered specials was on the smaller side, having only two bathrooms in the roughly 2400-square-foot property. But they eventually moved to a bigger home in the area, which amassed about 7000 square feet.

"There were a lot more bathrooms for all of us. Like, nine bathrooms," said Jill.

But according to former family friend Jim Holt, "Jim Bob needed help getting his house done. The show made arrangements to help finish his house, which was $200, several hundred thousand dollars to get it finished."

IBLP founder Bill Gothard allegedly inappropriately touched children in the church.

According to one female ex-IBLP member, girls under 18 years of age would "get chosen" to ride in Gothard's van.

"He would always have a girl next to him. There was always petting to heavy petting. His hand on knees, up skirts," she claimed. "We never talked about it. I knew it was weird, but I didn't know it was wrong. He didn't need to test our boundaries because he had already tested our boundaries so many other ways."

<p>Institute in Basic Life Principles</p>

Institute in Basic Life Principles

Another woman claimed Gothard would not abide by the "six-inch rule" meant to keep opposite sexes from getting too close. And it became "routine" for him to push the boundaries of that multiple times a week by inappropriately touching the young girls.

IBLP encouraged physical punishment and discouraged children from speaking up.

One of the former members claimed that IBLP "believed in physical punishment for merely everything."

"It was a fear-based tactic and it was very effective," he added as another ex-member claimed, "All children, if they were following the institute's guidelines, you're spanked until you stop crying, which could be hours."

And according to Jill Duggar, "Having a voice about what you think and how you feel and being able to voice and say no about things was stifled and not encouraged in the IBLP setting [or] my family."

Related: Jinger Duggar Says She Hasn&#39;t Seen &#39;True Change&#39; in Brother Josh Duggar: &#39;I Just Pray for the Victims&#39;

Children were often punished by being beaten with rods. Asked whether she ever witnessed such a thing with her own cousins, Amy Duggar King tearfully said: "They called it encouragement."

"They literally said, 'You need to come into the room and we need to give you some encouragement,'" she continued. "But it was in the sweetest tone ever of like, 'Do you need encouragement? I think you need encouragement.'"

The church also encouraged a method called "blanket training," in which you place a kid — often an infant — on a blanket. If they reached for the object of desire placed beside them, they would be slapped on the hand until they "break the rebellious spirit." (This approach was featured in Michelle Duggar's book The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families How they Do It.)

"When you're told to not resist when your parents are hitting you as a child because it's for your own good [and] when you believe that your body belongs to the church and to the authorities that be, it's absolutely designed to groom victims to be ready for more predators later on as adults, as young adults," another former member said. "Everything about it sets you up to be the perfect victim."

The education the Duggar children and other kids within IBLP received was less than adequate.

Homeschooling was the encouraged method of education by Bill Gothard. However, the Duggar kids would attend the organization's Advanced Training Institute (ATI).

"We were part of ATI from as early as I can remember," Jill Duggar Dillard recalled. "We liked to go to the ATI conferences. At the time, they only had one conference a year. People who were in ATI, I felt like, were very concerned about any kind of public education for their kids because their kids would get brainwashed, which is true. Those things can happen."

Children within the church had to study from the Wisdom Booklets, which one ex-member noted was "no such thing" as proper education. The booklets are "poorly sourced" and contain "complete utter made-up nonsense," another former member stated.

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Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets is now streaming in full on Prime Video.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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