Daughter Of TLC’s ‘The Willis Family’ Says Her Christian Dad Sexually Abused Her Beginning At Age 3

Jessica Fisher. the oldest child of “The Willis Family,” a TLC show about Christian family that traveled the country and sang, says that her father Toby Willis began sexually abusing her when she was three years old.

Willis was charged in September 2016 with child rape after being arrested in Greenville, Kentucky, by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which said Willis traveled to Kentucky “in an effort to avoid law enforcement,” noted NBC News.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said its agents “developed information Willis had a sexual encounter approximately 12 years ago with an underage female.”

Three more child rape charges were added, and Willis pleaded guilty in July 2017, reported The Tennessean:

Willis received two 25-year sentences on two counts and two 40-year sentences on the other two. Those sentences will be concurrent, and served at 100 percent, giving Willis a total of 40 years in prison. 

Fisher posted her story on her website:

As far back as I can remember, I was sexually abused by my father. I figure I was around three years old in some of the earliest memories…

An initial awareness of questionable behavior began when I was around nine years old.  Something (I’m still not sure what) caused my mother to become suspicious of my father’s interactions…

The abuse developed and ebbed at various intervals over the years and into puberty…

Over the years periodic confrontations happened between my parents and eventually involved various siblings as we struggled to pin down the monster in the shadows that we couldn’t seem to pull into the light. 

I feel like I truly knew that certain other members of my family were being sexually abused and I felt they knew this about me too. Conversations were had, tears were cried and we questioned how to “deal” with the “situation…”

My father shaped us from child students to child performers and at some vaguely discernible point we became a touring dance troupe and then band. 

He always promoted his philosophy, showcasing the family as the living proof of the validity of his methods and beliefs. 

 It was the day before my 23rd birthday and we were in Minnesota performing and filming our tv show. I came into my hotel room that night to find my mother and some of my sisters sitting on the bed crying with that look on their face I had seen so many times before… 

Sexual abuse was still happening. And I knew it. Deep in my gut. Life seemed thin and fragile and about to shatter in that moment. The delicate balance of ignorance and fear and hope was about to break wide open. I was the adult now. 

Something had to change. That night I told my father I would “not ignore it this time.” I told him I would leave as soon as I could find out how to do so. Other family members echoed similar declarations… 

When we arrived home from tour that autumn, I was somehow able to go out with [my boyfriend and future husband] Sean one more time. 

When I arrived home that night, my family had been made aware of my secret and inappropriate communication with him and Sean was excommunicated. 

My father threatened his life. I was forced by my father to “break up with him” multiple times over the following months…

In January, my father assaulted me on the tour bus in front of the entire family. He blamed my disobedience and defied everyone though my mother and siblings tried to interfere.

A police car pulled up behind us and when the officer entered, I hid in my bunk to hide the blood and the forming bruises. Everyone put on their show faces. In that moment, I knew I was betraying myself. I was the one keeping me prisoner. 

I woke up one morning during the first week of April, not knowing it was the day I was going to finally leave. The TV show had just finished filming, we were in TN at a new rental house and we had a few weeks before our next gig. 

Halfway through the morning, my brother Jair and I had a disagreement and he went to our father. Dad came down and confronted me. When I didn’t apologize, he took off his belt and beat me like when I was younger. 

He said it was his god-given responsibility to punish me. It was in that moment I knew. The threats and violence stopped working. No matter how it happened, I would leave by tonight…

My mother and siblings made religious and emotional appeals. Everyone was terrified of what would happen if I really left. But these things had lost their power over me… 

I woke up the next morning in a strange new world. My 24th birthday was only a few days away. It had taken way too long and at times I thought I would die but I had finally escaped…

Around 4 months after I left, another friend stepped forward to save the rest of my family. He reported my father for suspicion of sexual abuse and the official investigation started. 

The case was given to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. When they contacted me, I went in and ended up speaking with them the whole rest of that day. I was able to give them a long and confident testimony which was eventually used to create the arrest warrant…

The investigation unearthed so many more things that my family as a whole was unaware of and there are still sometimes no words to describe what happened in it’s fullest magnitude.

(Sources: NBC NewsThe TennesseanJessica Fisher)

 

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