SILVER SPRING, Md. (Christian Examiner) - After the recent child abuse scandal involving the Duggar family forced the cable network TLC to cancel its popular reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, the network has announced it will air a new one-hour commercial-free documentary at the end of August to help victims of sexual abuse.
In a statement released last week, TLC said the network has partnered with two national abuse prevention organizations, RAINN and Darkness to Light, "in an effort to promote education, raise awareness and advance the conversation on this important matter."
Breaking the Silence will air Sunday, Aug. 30 at 10 p.m. (EST), and offer information for victims of child abuse on where they can receive help, as well as offer a deeper look into the challenges and difficulties faced by those abused.
The Duggars, known for their wholesome and faith-based values, had the most popular reality show on TLC, averaging 2.3 million viewers per new episode and scoring in the Nielsen "Cable Top 25", until the tabloid magazine, InTouch, broke the news in May that the Duggars' eldest son, Josh Duggar, had molested five young girls including some of his sisters when he was 14 to 15 years of age by fondling them.
The true prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to calculate, as most victims do not disclose their experiences. It's a silent epidemic, where open and honest discussion about its effect on the estimated 42 million survivors in America today is rarely heard.
Josh Duggar apologized for acting "inexcusably" and resigned from his job as executive director of FRC Action, an affiliate of Family Research Council. At the time, TLC suspended the show but in July announced the show's cancellation.
When TLC announced both Jessa and Jill Duggar, victims of their brother's molestation, would make appearances in the documentary -- as well as other survivors and families of child abuse -- some criticized the decision to include the Duggars in the documentary.
In an article for Time magazine Elizabeth Esther wrote what happened "in the Duggar house wasn't just about Josh Duggar - it was about an entire system of abuse." She said the Duggars followed teachings by Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, teachings which included a workshet for counseling victims of sexual abuse that asked victims to examine whether they were responsible for the abuse themselves.
Esther pointed out that Gothard underwent his own scandal and resigned from his organization in 2014 after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual harassment.
"His own board of directors found him guilty of acting 'in an inappropriate manner,' and by unanimous agreement decided he was "not permitted to serve," wrote Esther.
"Until the Duggars have fully stepped away from an abusive religious environment—or at least publicly renounced their affiliation with it—it's impossible for Jill and Jessa to present a helpful model for recovery," wrote Esther, who was also a victim of abuse within her church as a child. "Why? Because they are still being victimized. In my case, it took years of therapy after leaving my fundamentalist church before I began to understand that I was abused. It took even longer for me to understand the systemic forces and religious structures that enabled it."
The TLC network still hopes something good can come from the documentary.
"The true prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to calculate, as most victims do not disclose their experiences. It's a silent epidemic, where open and honest discussion about its effect on the estimated 42 million survivors in America today is rarely heard," TLC stated.
"Breaking Silence shows us how we all play a pivotal role in recognizing the signs of child abuse and preventing it—and teaching children that there are anonymous, safe places they can go to for help so they don't suffer in silence."