Jinger Duggar Vuolo is not holding back when it comes to reflecting on growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home, which she has drastically separated herself from over the years. The former Counting On star, 29, admitted she believes that her strict upbringing under her parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar was “harmful” in an interview with PEOPLE published on Wednesday, Jan. 18. “Fear was a huge part of my childhood. I thought I had to wear only skirts and dresses to please God,” she further explained. “Music with drums, places I went or the wrong friendships could all bring harm.”
She was so scared of straining her relationship with God that she recalled being “terrified” when she and her several siblings went to play a family game called broomball. “I thought I could be killed in a car accident on the way, because I didn’t know if God wanted me to stay home and read my Bible instead,” she added. She made the revelations while promoting her new memoir called Becoming Free Indeed, which details her personal journey of finding herself, balancing her faith, and breaking down the walls and worries she had due to her religious upbringing.
“That’s the beauty of this journey,” she continued. “The teaching I grew up under was harmful, it was damaging, and there are lasting effects. But I know other people are struggling and people who are still stuck. I want to share my story, and maybe it will help even just one person to be freed.”
Jinger and her family starred on TLC’s 19 Kids & Counting between 2008 and 2015, bringing their strict teachings to the spotlight. She and her 18 other siblings were taught under the Institute in Basic Life Principles, an organization established by minister Bill Gothard, who left the church in 2014 after he was accused of more than two dozen counts of sexual assault. Ironically, the show was canceled after Josh Duggar‘s molestation scandal surfaced in early 2015.
Bill’steachings revolve around a man being the unquestioned center of the household with him and God being a guiding light for women, who are expected to serve their husbands once married. They are also discouraged from dancing, wearing pants, and partaking in modern dating (they were barred from front-facing hugs and kissing before marriage).
While Jinger is still a Christian, she has completely abandoned Bill’s teachings. “His teachings were so harmful, and I’m seeing more of the effects of that in the lives of my friends and people who grew up in that community with me,” she noted. “There are a lot of cult-like tendencies.”
Jinger now lives in California, states away from her family in Arkansas, with her husband of six years, Jeremy Vuolo. The pair share two daughters, Felicity, 4, and Evangeline, 2. It’s safe to say they will be raised in a faith-driven, but far less conservative household than their mother was.