We watch people on television without truly ever knowing how hard their lives might be. Duck Dynasty star, Jep Robertson, and his wife, Jessica, are shedding some light on their pasts in their new book, The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness. While the overall theme is one of perseverance, fans may be shocked and saddened by some of the things they may read.
Molested by Older Girl
Jep, who, at 37, is the youngest of the Duck Commander flock, has revealed that he was molested as a 6-year-old in grade school by an another student. In his book, he wrote: “An older girl started sitting next to me. She seemed sweet at first. She’d come sit beside me, like a motherly figure almost. I remember her being sweet and taking care of me. I liked to sit in the back so she’d come sit with me. After a while the girl started doing strange things. She’d take my hands and push them up under her shirt and tell me I was tickling her. Then she started making me pull down my pants. It was awkward. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew something wasn’t right.”
Marriage and Fatherhood
Despite having those feelings, Jep kept the molestation a secret for years until he shared his pain with his wife. “I think God put that on me for meeting someone like Jessica” he said to Entertainment Tonight, “who went through some hard times herself and I think it made our relationship stronger once we talked about it.”
For a long time, Jep says that he was “scared of girls and just women in general,” being married and having three daughters (and one son) forced him to confront that fear. Now, he believes it has helped him realize the importance of communication between parents and children and has made an effort to teach them how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
As a teen, Jep fell in with the wrong crowd and soon began drinking and “smoking any kind of drug you can think of.” After nearly dying, he credits an intervention with saving his life. “I walked in the house and they all turned and looked at me,” Jep said. “Back then I was super pale. I weighed 120 pounds and you could just tell I had really not been living right. I saw my mom and she started crying. Dad called me in there and he said, ‘You need to choose between us and the life you’re living,’ and I just fell down on my knees and said, ‘Thank you so much. What took you all so long?'” He was very fortunate to have people around him who cared enough to make that effort.
Jessica’s First Marriage
Jep’s wife, Jessica, can relate to the struggles that can often accompany the teen years. At just 18 years old, she married her youth pastor. During the same interview with Entertainment Tonight, she explained that her children (Lily, 11, Merritt, 10, Priscilla, 8, and River, 7) had no idea she was married before being with their father but felt that it was time that they knew. She credits meeting Jep with turning her life around.
She was just entering her senior year of high school when her youth pastor expressed his feelings for her. She felt “unsure and scared” by his advances but everyone around her thought she was incredibly lucky to have garnered his affections. In the book, she wrote: “I also started to feel that I should be in love with him even though I wasn’t in love with him.”
Now, at 34 years old, Jessica looks back and realizes that her sheltered upbringing failed to prepare her for life. She admitted: “I was really naive at the time and I was a people pleaser. If I could have just made a few other decisions when I was younger, I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes.”
Around that same time, she also began struggling with an eating disorder. She avoided anything with fat in it and began drastically cutting out calories while exercising more. Sometimes, she’d allow herself a meal comprised only of a few marshmallows.
After a year, she found the courage to end her first marriage but found herself feeling hopeless. She reunited with her high school friends, who had made the transition to a college party lifestyle. She started drinking and sleeping around but, eventually, turned to religion to get her life back on track.
Finding Each Other
She and Jep attended the same church but he was warned to stay away from her because of her wild ways. In the book, Jep describes the behavior of a particularly aggressive church elder: “He began throwing Bible verse after Bible verse at me about adulterous women, divorce, and remarriage…Then he began to pressure me to end the relationship with her.” Instead, he had compassion for what Jessica had been through and believed that Jesus had given her a second chance at life. Now, 14 years later, their marriage is still going strong.
It’s great that the Robertson’s have decided to be so open about their pasts and how they found ways of overcoming their struggles and bad choices. It gives hopes to the millions of people who find themselves in similar situations every day.
The book, The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God, becomes available on June 23, 2015. Duck Dynasty will return to A&E the next day.