Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ex-FLDS Women Speak from the Heart

Tonight as I write, tears are trickling slowly down my cheeks, and I have a lump in my throat that a glass of water cannot remove. Why, you ask? Because today I have listened to an unrelenting stream of the most harrowing, horrifying and ultimately heart-warming testimony so far in the polygamy reference.

Usually I take my notes, assemble them into some kind of readable sentences and paragraphs, and send them off into the ether.

Tonight I am sending you a stream of consciousness – my notes as they dived headlong from the notebook to the computer screen – unedited and untidy. But I was so moved today by the testimony of four women, formerly members of the FLDS, that this, tonight, is only way for me to deal with what they said.

I give you no names. Here is an amalgam of the words of all four witnesses, since so much of what they all said was the experience of each one of them. I will only say that they came from the United States and Canada.


I come from a 4-wife house. We were called “The Saints” before we became Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. The family had no belief in doctors – I lost the hearing in my left ear – I caught hepatitis from contaminated water in the well, and suffered for ten months until my grandma made my father do something about it. I learned to read from my grandma. We had to lie about Pa's surname after he was arrested in the '50s - “Lying for the Lord” they called it – we had to do it all the time to protect ourselves from the outside world. I kept my mouth shut at the local school. I have 31 brothers and sisters, and was ridiculed in school because of the way I spoke and dressed. I saw disparities between what we believed, and what was happening in our daily life. We were God's Chosen, but were taught to lie to non-believers. If we were the Chosen, why couldn't we let people know about it? We grew up with this unbalanced life. The FLDS raises liars.

I was molested by Pa when I was three years old – forced to perform oral sex. Pa took it as his right to use his children as he wished. As result I considered myself a very bad person, and grew up believing that women were responsible for men's bad behaviour. The molestation continued till I was 16, the year before I was married. The day before the wedding, Pa asked me if there was anything more I needed to learn from him, and I was terrified that he meant to molest me again – the day before my wedding!

I didn't want to get married at seventeen. The Prophet had a revelation about who was to be my husband, and he passed the news on to my father, who then told me. My mother could do nothing to interfere. I had three children in five years.

I had so many brothers and sisters that only negative behaviour on my part would make my parents notice me. My Dad didn't know my name and didn't recognize me as one of his children. I had my second child 13 months after the first was born, and the third two and a half years later. I was asked why there was such a big gap between the second and third – was I using contraception?  I got a divorce, and had to move to a small house opposite Pa's place. I refused an order to marry the husband of my sister. I was 22 and he was 55. I finally blew up and told the Prophet to go to hell and walked out. When I went for the children, Pa said I had no children, they were no longer mine. I was damned and should go away.I  tried for two month to see the children, but knew nothing about the kinds of help available to me in the outside world. The children had been told that their mother did not want them, and Pa told me he wished I had never been born. 11 months later, I was able to hand the necessary legal documents to Pa, and left with her children. It took a long, long time to rebuild a relationship with my mother.

Wives experience tension, jealousy, and a sisterly relationship dies when two sisters marry the same man. There's never any intimacy or relationship-building with a man. A competitive atmosphere prevails with regard to the children – who is the cutest etc. And each wife punishes another wife's children as she sees fit.

After polygamy, I had no clue how to function in the outside world. I found Gentiles (i.e. non-FLDS) much more accepting of me and kinder to me than my own family. I began drinking at 19, became a professional musician, did drugs and booze. Had a constant struggle for years, and am still finding out that I have choices, and that things are available to me.

Indoctrination was so prolonged and intense that I have to reject old thought processes and readjust. There is no more physical abuse of my kids, though I still suffer from depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

All polygamous families practise child sexual abuse, be it fathers with daughters or sons, and male relatives are known to abuse their blood kin and others. All families practise physical abuse, justified by the belief that one “can beat nigh unto death” to correct a wife or child. Among fathers and grandfathers there are many pedophiles, and brothers regularly sexually assault their sisters. It is a society pervaded by inappropriate sexual behaviour. To get rid of young men, the older ones do whatever is necessary to get them away from the community. The FLDS allow the media to see only what its leaders want them to see, and are ever mindful of the doctrine “Lying for the Lord”.

One witness as a teenager refused to marry a man in his eighties, and in retaliation she was told by Winston Blackmore that “she was to marry this weekend”. FLDS members believed that the year 2000 would bring huge destruction, and that only the faithful would survive. I had aspirations for a career, but only finished the 8th Grade. I had to marry someone who, though my own age, I hardly knew. Boys are told by elders that girls are snakes, and are to be avoided at all times. Girls are told the same thing about boys! Relationships before marriage are not permitted. Many young girls are forced into marriage at the age of 15 They are terrified, sad, depressed at such a thought.

Winston Blackmore doesn't believe in education for boys. He thinks boys get a better education from work than from school. Boys work for free, in the expectation of a house and a wife. Apostates are allowed no further contact with the FLDS, nor with their children. Women who show intelligence and ask questions are frowned on. One woman was called “a virus” because of all the questions she asked. Women have no say in future wives for their husband – they just have to put up with the situation.

Living with 75 brothers and sister is chaotic. NO relationship with Dad was possible, and he didn't even know her. Most young children are left outdoors unattended to play during the day. Husbands need wives in order to get to heaven. The rigid dress code is ordered by men, with no input from women as to fabric or fit. All choices for women are made by men, who cannot allow control to be lost.

Female children are deliberately broken down from an early age. Individuality and standing up for oneself as a woman are almost unheard of. Sex abuse is one of the methods used to “break down” recalcitrant women. “I never met a woman who had not suffered sex abuse.”

After leaving a polygamous community I experienced a sense of being neither here nor there. The strain of living in a different community is huge.

My sister and I have set up a non-profit society dedicated to helping women who have escaped the polygamous lifestyle and want to start over.  We are so happy that our voices are finally being heard.

No comments:

Post a Comment