While 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar is expecting his fourth child with wife Anna Duggar, the 27-year-old reality star is making headlines for another reason.
Josh, along with his wife and parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, are speaking out in response to reports that he was once accused of sexually assaulting five underage girls as a teen.
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Josh tells PEOPLE in a statement. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
As a result of the reports going public, Josh has now resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.
“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives,” Jim Bob, 49, and Michelle, 48, have joined together to say in a statement. “When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.”
They add: “Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles every day. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.”
Meanwhile, Josh’s wife Anna, 26, stands by her man, even after he confessed his “past teenage mistakes” two years before he proposed marriage.
“I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock,” Anna shares. “When my family and I first visited the Duggar home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn’t know why he was sharing it. For Josh, he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was – even very difficult past mistakes.”
The proud wife adds: “He continued to do what he was taught. [I know] who Josh really is – someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.”
As for the soon-to-be father-of-four, he has asked “Christ to forgive.”
“I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” Josh shares. “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”
Since 2012, Rutherford’s two children – son Hermés, 8, and daughter Helena, 5 – have been living with their father in Europe. The exes technically share custody, but the actress is forced to fly back and forth for visits based on a court-mandated parenting plan.
But according to PEOPLE, the Gossip Girl actress says that Giersch would not allow her see their kids after arriving in France for her latest trip Thursday. As well, she claims that the German businessman won’t let her be with them unless she turns over their U.S. passports.
Meanwhile, Giersch’s attorney says he is asking Rutherford to give the passports to a third party.
“Any statement to the public suggesting that if someone were to bring the children back to America (which is in violation of the custody orders and criminal) that he or she would be a hero, is unacceptable on many levels. It creates a very real and present risk to the children’s safety and well-being that must be taken seriously,” attorney Fahi Takesh Hallin says in a statement. “As a result of such statements by Kelly, Daniel has had to take necessary precautions in accordance with the parties’ Judgment and custody orders, which includes requesting that the children’s passports be held by a neutral person when the children are not traveling.”
The statement continues: “Daniel has not requested that the children’s passports be turned over to him, and that is a false claim. Daniel has always been and will continue to be in compliance with the Court Orders and ensure the children’s safety and well-being.”
But Rutherford claims Giersch asked her to give them to another one of his attorneys, whom is someone she does not know and has not been approved by the court.
Here’s how the story unfolds: German-born Giersch was granted custody of their two children in 2012. According to court reports, Rutherford technically has 50/50 custody. However, since a judge ruled that the children would live with their father, who resides in Monaco, in order for Rutherford to see them she must either travel to Monaco or wait for the summer when they stay with her in New York.
To complicate matters further, the judge placed the children with their father because Giersch is unable to get a visa to stay in the U.S. Rutherford has since filed for bankruptcy, citing $2 million in debt from this custody battle.
“Where is his visa? Or efforts to get one? That was the point of all of this,” Rutherford says. “I have only been doing press to get help from my country. How else will I ever see my kids? We are all U.S. citizens.”
The actress, 46, appealed the California judge’s decision in New York last month and lost, but she plans to keep fighting.
“I told my son, ‘Mommy is still fighting for you,’” she said. “My children, not only were they taken away, but they were sent to a foreign country. I don’t even know how you explain to someone what it feels like.”
“I’ve always wanted my kids to have a relationship with him, and I’ve really only encouraged that all along. When I went into court, I never asked for money, and I never asked for full custody,” Rutherford said. “I just wanted what was right for them and their well-being moving forward. And what happened over the next six years was the most surreal, bizarre, unimaginable thing.”