Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Carolyn Blackmore Jessop - ex FLDS

Today Daphne Bramham reported in the Vancouver Sun:

"My biggest concern is that polygamy is being ignored."

That is how Carolyn Blackmore Jessop, a former member of a fundamentalist Mormon group, ended two-and-a-half hours of harrowing testimony about growing up in the community, escaping from it with her eight children and trying to deal with the trauma of leaving.

"Polygamy is not pretty to look at. It is nice that it is tucked away in a dark corner where nobody has to see its realities because it's creepy," she told Chief Justice Robert Bauman Wednesday.

Since leaving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in April 2003, Jessop has suggested that decriminalizing polygamy might help.  But testifying Wednesday in the constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada's law is valid, Jessop said she is not sure that is the answer.  Even if polygamy were decriminalized, she said it is unlikely that the FLDS leaders would suddenly give women the rights that they are entitled to or provide the protection children deserve.

Their failure to recognize basic human rights including allowing women to get healthcare for themselves and their children has rarely been prosecuted and Jessop says it seems there is little appetite to do so now.

Quoting Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, she said that in her home state alone, it would mean putting 30,000 people in prison and 50,000 children in foster care.  But she said, ignoring the problems polygamy causes - young boys expelled as young as 13, arranged marriages of 14-year-old girls, plus all the violence and abuse that she witnessed - cannot be ignored.

"What the answers are, I don't know."

Jessop, whose grandfather founded the FLDS community in Bountiful, B.C., was married at 18 to Merril Jessop. a powerful figure in the FLDS who was more than 30 years older [than she]. She was his fourth of six wives and mother to eight of his 38 children.

Aside from her own abuse, Jessop told Bauman about her eldest son's cousin and best friend.  Sam Jessop was kicked out of the FLDS at 15. He'd been taken out of school at 10 and was functionally illiterate.  His brothers, who had also been excommunicated, took him in after he was disowned by his parents.  Sam tried to go to school, but he was failing and his brothers took him to work with them digging trenches and building walls.

One Friday after building a retaining wall, he told them it was his last.  Sam studied all weekend for a high-school equivalency test and then hung himself.

"He was just trying to make sense of his life," Jessop said.  But she said,"it's hard when your  parents throw you out with the garbage."

Jessop has written two books about her experiences.

My Comment:  We learned today that the Prophet (God's representative on earth) made up his own rules.  Obedience was everything if FLDS members hoped to achieve salvation.  Carolyn Jessop had a burning desire to get a proper education, but was thwarted at every turn by the hierarchy.  All girls needed to think about was getting married and having babies (and Jessop had eight).  Education turned out to be a huge bone of contention between Jessop and her mother, who was an angry, depressed and frustrated woman, unhappy with her life.  Jessop's father asked the Prophet if his daughter could go to College and become  a doctor, but when she was married off at 17 to the 50-year-old Merril, all those decisions were handed over to him.

The more children that arrived in the family, the looser became the bond between her father and herself.  When Warren Jeffs became Prophet, he got rid of all the books in the library that were not about religion.  Her son Arthur was taken out of school at the end of Grade 7 at the age of 12, and put to work.  And the FLDS did not work 8-hour days!  Even in school, if the children did well, the husband received all the credit.  The consequences for saying 'No' were quite severe.  Husbands would use 'the water treatment' on little ones to keep them in line.

After her wedding her husband endeared himself to Jessop with the words "A dog is better than you are."  As a man with four wives and 34 children, his opinions were fully formed and immutable.  Jessop found herself in a household where the first wife stayed in her room all day long; the second had a breakdown when Merril administered a beating that landed her in hospital; the third wife was the favourite; and Carolyn lived in a distant relationship which stressed and terrified her.

She experienced several problem pregnancies, featuring the rupture of the afterbirth and premature deliveries.  FLDS women had no right to choose when to become pregnant, and her husband's response was "What woman wouldn't give her life for her baby?"  Merril was a man who could bring his wife to her knees by hurting his children.

I admire her courage at leaving the FLDS in Colorado City, and striking out with her children and only 20 dollars in her pocket.  The story of her escape is told in her book Escape, and a new volume, Triumph, continues the story.

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