Jessica Willis Fisher, the 26-year-old daughter of The Willis Clan patriarch Toby, has revealed that she suffered decades of sex abuse, beatings, and manipulation at the hands of her father.
The Willis Clan, originally made up of a Christian family of 14 from Nashville, Tennessee, shot to fame through season 9 of "America's Got Talent." They were also featured in "The Willis Family" TV series on TLC between 2015 and 2016, before Toby Willis was arrested on charges of child rape.
Willis was sentenced to 40 years in prison in July 2017 on multiple counts of raping his daughters.
Now, as The Willis Clan is looking to rebuild and produce music again, Jessica, the eldest daughter who has since left the country music band, has opened up on her website about the extensive sex abuse that she and her siblings were subjected to.
"As far back as I can remember, I was sexually abused by my father. I figure I was around 3 years old in some of the earliest memories. Initially, I had no way to know that anything was wrong. When I did eventually come to realize the fact, I had no way to accurately express what was happening to me. There followed immense shame, distrust and hurt throughout my childhood — even in the happy times. Thus ran the two parallel storylines that became my life," wrote Fisher, 26.
"An initial awareness of questionable behavior began when I was around 9 years old. Something (I'm still not sure what) caused my mother to become suspicious of my father's interactions. I didn't realize there was zero evidence of anything specific and all I did was nod uncertainly when a few general questions were asked by my mother," she continued.
"I heard my mother raise her voice to my father for the first time in my life and I thought the adults would figure it out. I didn't understand that my father simply denied any wrongdoing and became more secretive and dangerous from then on."
Fisher explained that "underneath the outward foundations of family, religion and homeschooling with an emphasis in the arts, there was a constant current of manipulation, domination, fear and favor."
She said that the abuse continued throughout her puberty years, and only started to fade off when she turned 17.
She tried to explain how she and her siblings did not realize for all those years how they were all being abused, and noted that since they were different ages and had different viewpoints, the extent of the abuse did not come to light for years.
As she grew older and the family grew more famous, she began to feel the urge to break free from her father's manipulation and speak out.
"My husband, Sean, came into my life at the beginning of 2015. He was not the first person to teach me what love can be like but he truly changed my life forever. Neither of us were ever alone in our journey; there is a special and beautiful thread of people who shaped us throughout our lives before we knew each other and there is a community that was there with us through the hardest parts of our fight," she reflected.
Eventually her father excommunicated Sean from the family. She was barred from speaking with him, and was punished severely when she disobeyed the order.
"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," Fisher wrote.
The beatings continued, however, until she finally gained the courage to leave the family right before her 24th birthday. Four months later, a family friend stepped forward to report Toby Willis to the police on suspected sexual abuse, which is when the investigation that eventually led to his downfall began.
Reflecting on her feelings toward the rest of her family, she wrote: "I am not currently a part of The Willis Clan band but I will always be a part of the Willis family. There is much to learn for myself about the truth of healthy relationships, faith, family, home, success, fulfillment and so much more. I appreciate the grace that is given by those closest to me."
The Willis Clan marked Fisher's 26th birthday on Friday, and in a Facebook post offered full support for her story, writing: "Today, we celebrate the birthday of Jessica, our beautiful eldest sister of 26 years now! Today, we also commend and support her brave vulnerability with the world. Today is the day we celebrate her truth being told."