Amy Duggar King, once portrayed on TLC's "19 Kids and Counting" as the "bad girl cousin," tells TODAY Parents in an exclusive interview that she was shocked when Josh Duggar was arrested and charged with possession of child sex abuse images, and that she worries about his six (soon to be seven) children.
"Who wouldn’t worry about that? My heart goes out to all those innocent, sweet victims... It breaks my heart," King said. "I really hope justice is served."
"I will just say that whatever you do in the darkness comes out in the light," King, 34, told TODAY Parents in an exclusive interview from her home state of Arkansas. "If you’re going to look at such disgusting and sickening images, justice has to be served."
Josh Duggar, the oldest of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's 19 children, was arrested by Homeland Security on April 29 on charges of receiving and possessing images of child sexual abuse. He has pleaded not guilty.
During a May 5 hearing, Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Gerald Faulkner testified that materials found on a computer belonging to Josh Duggar included files that were the “top five worst I’ve ever had to examine” and included child sex abuse images and videos of minors as young as 18 months.
Josh Duggar and his wife, Anna, are expecting their seventh child.
Now, as a parent herself to 19-month-old Daxton Ryan with husband, Dillon, King said she struggles with the charges against her cousin.
"To look at my little guy who is 19 months old... my heart and my brain cannot comprehend that," she shared. "It blows my mind. It’s heartbreaking and disgusting and evil. It’s so evil. I want nothing to do with it."
Reflecting on the severity of the allegations, King said, "There’s a Bible verse that says it’s better to hang a millstone around your head and jump into the ocean than to hurt one of these precious little ones."
'I definitely didn't know'
Just three days before King's wedding on September 6, 2015, she learned of allegations that Josh Duggar had years before molested four of his sisters and a babysitter. Duggar's parents said he confessed to them, and criminal charges were never filed. After the abuse allegations were revealed, TLC cancelled the Duggar family reality show "19 Kids and Counting."
With the benefit of hindsight, King said she does not think she would have appeared on the show.
"I wish I would have known about what was happening," she explained. "I did not know anything about the whole Josh situation the first time. We were told that he went to camp... I definitely didn’t know."
She's not 'Bad Cousin Amy'
As a teen on the show, King was portrayed as a rebel, but that is far from the truth, and she said the label was hurtful to her mental health.
"Growing up I’ve never had a police record, I’ve never done drugs, I’ve never done anything that would label me as a wild or crazy cousin," she said, adding the the juxtaposition against her conservative cousins made it seem like something it was not.
"It played with my emotions and then I realized, I’m fine," said King, who now owns a clothing boutique.
Boundaries and friendship with Jill
King said she has created some healthy boundaries with some members of her extended Duggar family.
"It’s OK to protect yourself from negativity and it’s OK to step back. I think that’s where I’m at," she said.
King remains close with cousin Jill Duggar Dillard, who has also distanced herself from the family in recent years.
"Jill and I are very, very close," King shared. "She’s really such a sweet person and she’s growing into her own. I’ve always called her 'my hippie chick,' ever since she was 7 or 8 years old ... and to see her live her life that’s freeing and still godly, but not being restrained, is a really, really beautiful thing to see. She has my full support."
The IBLP and the Duggars
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have been involved with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a conservative Christian organization. King said the group's beliefs hinder how people are allowed to grow up and "it's kind of sad."
"In the ultraconservative way certain families are raised, I don’t necessarily feel like it’s fair," King said, noting that girls are pushed to become mothers at the expense of other dreams and ambitions. "I think they should have schooling, and the ability to do other things besides being a mom and having babies. God gives you freedom, that's why there's so many different people, jobs and lifestyles."
King credits her mom, Deanna Duggar, 59, for her more mainstream upbringing.
"My mom was very open," King shared. "She was definitely not as strict at all and that really helped me figure out who I was, what I was OK with and what I’m not, and it was great. I could listen to the radio, I could wear bathing suits and bikinis, I could hang out with guys. My mom was like, 'I want you to learn self control on your own.'"
Jim Bob's sister speaks out
Deanna Duggar, the sister of Jim Bob Duggar, told TODAY that the "rebellious" characterization of her daughter on the show felt unfair.
"She’s a great person and she loves deeply," Deanna said. "She has a very big heart. This is the type of person my daughter is and I’m proud of her."
King said her own childhood, and her mom's example, is one she hopes to emulate for her own children.
"That’s how I want to parent," King said. "Freedom is really good and you can have boundaries, and those are good too."
Deanna Duggar said she's heartbroken by the allegations against her nephew Josh and is praying for the family.
"It breaks my heart, it really does," she said. "I pray for the family and that’s all I can do."
A prophetic tweet
Just hours before her cousin's arrest, King tweeted, "I had a dream last night that it was a beautiful sunny normal day and then all of a sudden the sky went black and there was a huge tornado that appeared on the highway close by and was destroying everything in its path."
"Isn’t that insane?" King said of the prophetic tweet. "People have asked me this — I didn’t know anything like this was coming, but I had the craziest dream that a tornado was coming to town. It was literally just tearing through the town. I did not understand it at all."
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