It has now become clear that with Warren Jeffs' incarceration, the abuse which is endemic in the polygamous system has not ended in Colorado City.
Among the peculiarities of the town are birth defects unheard of anywhere else in the world, a female life expectancy of 32 years, black trucks that follow outsiders around everywhere and a baby cemetery, said Rep. David Lujan, D-15, in a lecture on Monday night at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
“Colorado City is a town with a population of less than 10,000, yet they have a baby cemetery that extends over two acres,” Lujan said. “Just an inordinate number of baby graves for a town that size. But that’s not even the most stunning thing. You see a lot of graves that are either dug up or unmarked, and so many where the headstone indicated they died years ago, in 1997 or something, yet there is fresh dirt on the grave.”
Also present at the lecture at Arizona State University was Flora Jessop.
Flora Jessop grew up in Colorado City, Arizona and was raised in a polygamous family, with two mothers and twenty-seven siblings. After years of abuse, she fled her family and faith and became one of the few women to get out alive. Today she works as a social activist helping other abused women and children escape polygamy.
Jessop provided some books as examples of what the community’s children learn in homeschooling. Lujan read aloud from one titled, “Sisters Are Eternal Friends,” which he said refers to sister-wives (other wives of a woman’s husband).
“These sisters do not have bad tempers. They are always sweet to one another,” one page said. Another stated, “Father is the master of the house.”
“Keep sweet no matter what — it’s a matter of life and death” is a motto in the FLDS, she said. “And they mean it. You cannot have emotions.”
The competition to be perfect and the favorite causes constant arguing between sister-wives, Jessop said.
“I didn’t come out of polygamy hating men — I came out of polygamy hating women,” she said. “It took me 16 years after getting out of Colorado City before I could trust a female. That’s why you don’t see a more united front.”
Girls raised in the FLDS cannot be friends with their birth sisters, have girl friends or share confidences, she explained. They are taught from birth that their only friends are their sister-wives, and after marriage, even private contact with one’s own mother is forbidden, she said.
“So often people think that Warren Jeffs is behind bars and all is well in the world,” Lujan said. “But the abuse continues.”
What's your opinion? Is this a legitimate set of religious and social customs that the government has no business meddling in? Where do we draw the line? When does child abuse and domestic violence behind closed doors become everybody else's business?
If polygamy were practiced among consenting adults, would it be wrong? In theory, couldn't it be done properly?
How widespread do you think this is? Colorado City is a town of 10,000. There are other towns, mainly smaller, but there are probably hundreds of them throughout Utah, Arizona and Colorado. So, it's fairly widespread, don't you think?
I'll tell you what I think. As much as I find government intervention distasteful, and only would suggest it in the most urgent matters, I believe the government is justified in trying to put a stop to these abuses, first through legislation and then if necessry through forceful intervention.
When we spoke about Jeffs before, I said I thought he and his friends were using their religion to justify child abuse, like in the marrying of a 12-year-old and in the general abuse of underage women, as described above by Flora Jessop. I think the same kind of abuse continues in these isolated communities. I suppose the temptation is too great for men to resist, but whatever the explanation, I believe it's time it was stopped.
What do you think? Please leave a comment.