Book of the Week 8/15/11

While following trial coverage of FLDS “prophet” Warren Jeffs, convicted of sexual assault after his Texas trial of two young girls and sentenced to life plus 20 years, all the while never putting aside having sex with his 12 and 15-year-old “brides” (the 15-year-old also gave birth to his child) was part of the FLDS religion.

During this trial, I was fascinated by several interviews with a former FLDS member named Elissa Wall. She had testified in Jeffs’ Utah trial, giving details on how she was forced at age 14 to marry a cousin.

Elissa’s experiences can be read in her compelling book, Stolen Innocence (HarperCollins, 2009), which details many realities of the cloistered FLDS community and how women were kept under Jeffs’ control, among other incidents which will leave those who read her chilling yet inspirational story wondering how such things could happen to this young woman, yet emerges a survivor.

While it isn’t clear whether the sister wives actually loved their husbands, whether it was Jeffs or other men they were “called” to marry, the fateful story of how Elissa was not only able to escape her FLDS sect, encouraged by her sisters who also absconded, but also outlines details in Stolen Innocence of Elissa’s courage to file lawsuits against Warren Jeffs, the cousin she’d been forced to marry, and FLDS.

No matter what religion we practice, any kind of sexual abuse is no part of it. We have no idea exactly how many young women’s lives were ruined by such assaults within FLDS, but knowing women such as Elissa Wall could both escape and tell her story in such a remarkable and powerful manner shows that there are some who can not only emerge from the ashes of such atrocities, but also reach out to help others in the same harrowing situations.