Nearly two months after a molestation scandal threw the fate of the popular TLC show, "19 Kids and Counting," into jeopardy, the network officially pulled the plug on the show Thursday, and has made moves to make amends.
"After thoughtful consideration, TLC and the Duggar family have decided to not move forward with '19 Kids and Counting.' The show will no longer appear on the air, the network said in a statement on its website. "The recent attention around the Duggars has sparked a critical and important conversation about child protection."
The network had been under intense pressure to cancel the show after revelations surfaced in May that couple Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's eldest son, Josh, had admitted to molesting five underage girls, including some of his sisters, when he was a teenager.
In a statement on their website, the Duggars responded to the news, saying they have addressed the abuse and have moved on.
"With God’s grace and help, Josh, our daughters and our entire family overcame a terrible situation, found healing and a way forward. We are so pleased with the wonderful adults they have all become," the statement said. "It is our prayer that the painful situation our family went through many years ago can point people toward faith in God and help others who also have lived through similar dark situations to find help, hope and healing, as well."
The news has brought renewed awareness to the problem of sexual abuse, and spurred a conversation about how to prevent molestation and help victims of abuse.
About 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, but because it is often not reported, the prevalence may in fact be much higher. As in the Duggars' situation, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well, according to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents protect their children with education and close oversight. Most offenders are figures a child knows, like a family member, close friend, babysitter, or coach. The AAP recommends parents teach children about the privacy of body parts, and that there are no secrets between children and parents. It also suggests parents be aware of adults who offer children special gifts or toys or who want to take children on special outings alone.
If children disclose sexual abuse, parents should take the disclosure seriously, then contact a local child protection service agency or the police, says the American Academy of Pediatrics
TLC has said it will use the news to raise awareness about child sexual abuse.
"We took it as an opportunity to step further than just 'How do we protect ourselves?' and step into 'How do we protect our audience and protect children?'" Marjorie Kaplan, group president of TLC, Animal Planet and Velocity networks, told the Associated Press. "Our hope is to do more of that, in a way that's thoughtful and respectful of the victims of child abuse — in the Duggar family and across America."
TLC is planning a commercial-free, one-hour documentary about sex-abuse with some of the Duggars, including oldest daughters and self-described victims of Josh, Jill and Jessa.
The advocacy groups RAINN (short for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and Darkness to Light will be partnering with TLC for the documentary.
The Duggar family was first featured on the network in 2008 and went on to become one of TLC's most popular and profitable shows. It documented the life of the Arkansas couple and their now-19 kids. It also became a platform for which the couple to espouse their conservative Christian family values.
Son Josh was a lobbyist against abortion rights and gay marriage for the Family Research Council when news emerged about the molestation. He resigned immediately as activists angrily denounced him and his family as hypocrites for preaching family values while allegedly covering up past sexual abuse.
More than 20 advertisers abandoned the show in protest, and almost 200,000 people had signed a Change.org petition to cancel the show because of the family's stance against LGBT protections.
This isn't the first show TLC cancelled due to molestation allegations.
TLC also canceled the popular show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, after allegations surfaced about a relationship between the show's matriarch June “Mama June” Shannon and a man convicted of child molestation.