May 1st, 2008
12:47 PM ET

Why so many FLDS children have broken bones

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/17/art.polygamy3.jpg%5D

Carolyn Jessop
Co-author with Laura Palmer of the bestseller ESCAPE, a personal account of life in the FLDS
Sickened but not surprised is my reaction to the news that 41 of the boys removed from the Eldorado compound showed signs of having had broken bones. Some of them were “very young,” according to child protection officials.

I was married to Merril Jessop, who now runs the compound in Texas. Physical abuse was not uncommon in his household. I saw boys hit or kicked hard enough to result in fractures. I remember seeing a boy kicked so hard he flew across the room. I’ve seen boys hit with large boards.

It’s not just the abuse.

When my son, Patrick, was six years old, he fell off a bunk bed one night. I was sure he broke his arm. Merril refused to let me take him to the doctor. He said his arm was not broken. I sat up with Pat all night. I gave him pain medication. He was in agony.

I was not free as a mother to take my child to the doctor unless I had Merril’s permission. I waited for three days until Merril went out of town. Pat was unable to use his arm. I took him to the local clinic. His arm was broken and needed to be set.

Neglect is abuse, too.

Today Rod Parker, the attorney for the FLDS, said in response to the reports today of the boys with broken bones, that if it were true, the boys would have been taken to hospitals for treatment.

He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That might be what would happen in a normal family. It was not what happened in Merril Jessop’s family. I know. I was part of it.

Another way boys are abused is that they are forced to work construction jobs from the time they are young. They have no choice and are forced to quit school.

Merril Jessop’s son, Johnson, who’s 16, and was living at the compound at the time of the raid, told my children a few months before that he’d been in a severe accident while working construction recently and almost had to have his leg amputated when it was trapped under scaffolding.

The boys work from sunrise to sunset. My son Arthur was forced to quit school at 12. He would go to work at 5am and come back at dark. 12-16 hour days were not unusual.  Men in the FLDS use their sons as slave labor to make money off them in their construction businesses.

When we escaped five years ago, Arthur hadn’t been in school for three years. He resisted returning. There were two occasions early on when he had to be taken to school in handcuffs.

Fast forward to today: When Arthur graduated from high school he was awarded the prize for the student who overcomes the most obstacles. He completed a two-year junior college and starts university this fall.

Now Arthur has earned his private pilot’s license and now is working towards his commercial license.

As his mother, I could not be more proud.

Filed under: Carolyn Jessop • Laura Palmer • Polygamy
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Eileen

    Anybody that doesn't believe this should read Escape.....it came out before the raid.....and then maybe you'll understand better...

    May 2, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  2. jamie m, Texas

    Can someone please tell me why we aren't prosecuting the men in this compound. It seems to me that if we prosecute people daily for incest, physical abuse, violation of child labor laws, and statuatory rape, and neglect then why aren't we actively seeking to remove these men and prosecute them as harshly as we would any other sexual predator or abusive person. And since the men haven't been punished, can't they then go out and seek other women and children to abuse?

    May 2, 2008 at 12:02 pm |
  3. Dyann

    Carolyn, not ALL of us condone child rape/molestation/abuse under the guise of "religion".

    The majority of us believe you and have an interest in keeping ALL children safe from these criminals (their mothers included).

    Keep on exposing this blatant Pedo-Cult!

    May 2, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  4. Patricia LaDuke

    Abuse is abuse and returning these children to be beaten and used is outrageous. If this were your child, how would you react? In my grandchildren's elementary school of over 500, I have only seen a couple of children in casts in the four years I have been actively transporting my children to and from school. I have stood at the door every afternoon as each child exits the school and I find that many fractures horrendous. Also I spent several years as a full-time medical transcriptionist typing E.R. reports every day. Get your head out of the sand people. This is serious!!!!!!

    May 2, 2008 at 6:01 am |
  5. Todd

    I'm glad this ranch was raided, the kids don't deserve this abuse.

    May 2, 2008 at 5:20 am |
  6. EJ

    Congratulations to your son, Carolyn! Stay strong!

    May 1, 2008 at 11:36 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    I've read Carolyn's book and what she writes here is mild compared to what she described in her book and I don't believe she exaggerated or is working her own agenda. The FLDS defines what we call abuse and neglect as "discipline" – if I had disciplined my children the way the FLDS does routinely, I would have wound up in jail and my children in foster care.

    Before you condemn Carolyn as working her own agenda, educate yourself and read her book and the other books written by women who have escaped from polygamy – you'll find that they are consistent. I read Carolyn's book this weekend and it was easy to read and horrifying to imagine just what she and her children endured. I'm glad she is used as a source to help explain the FLDS and I hope that the children the CPS took custody of are protected from the FLDS environment from here on out – what the children and the women live daily in that sect compares to the slavery once practiced in the South. Thank you Carolyn for trying to educate us.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 1, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  8. Heather

    Before we had the Industrialized revolution and before we had the current public school system we have now. Children did work in the fields on the farms with their families. They worked in the coal mines because they were small enough to reach small spaces that adults couldnt. They worked to sell newpapers and any small jobs to help their family make money. We had no labor laws. That all changed with the Industrialized Revolution machines designed to improve productivity and increase business. Children were no longer needed. They were protected. Then as the laws were established so was the public school system we have today. Your poor children were forced illegally to work. I am so happy Carolyn that your son has learned to fly. How appropiate for him. Hes free to fly with birds and and literally know that the sky is the limit. What if he wanted to join the airforce become an astronaut.

    May 1, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  9. Loyal Lady

    This is just a reflection of the world we live in. We were aware that this place was in operation for years and never gave a care or concern for these people or these children and now everyone wants to run in and be a victor. It's amazing because if these had been Africian Americans, Hispanics or anything other than Caucassians, this place would have been uprooted years ago.

    May 1, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  10. Mike in NYC

    Louise wrote:

    "The facts are showing that there was more than 1 instance of abuse."

    "Abuse" will be defined the way the authorities want it defined, and applied how and to whom the authorities desire.

    This whole government operation fits my definition of "abuse" to a T.

    As to your example, I'd bring that baby back to its parents, with a stern lecture and warning. End of story.

    The nightmare for these people is anything but over. This is not being done for the children's sake. There are agendas at work here.

    That initial phony phone call should have been enough to rile the suspicions of anyone with a functioning cerebrum.

    May 1, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  11. CJ,CA

    360 – why do you continue to cover this story when all you have at this point is rumors, opinions, and speculation.

    They "showed signs" of having had broken bones; the children "appeared" to be a certain age; Carolyn "heard about" certain acts; it was "reported" that this happened.....

    Why don't you wait and report on this when you can give us "medical records stated ...."; "in a sworn affidavit this person said ..."; "police reports show...."; "court documents prove......"

    I'm glad that other people are starting to question Carolyn's story besides me. I wrote in a few weeks ago and said that what she wrote in a book doesn't prove anything and are not necessarily facts, and everyone attacked me. Luckily my address wasn't included, or the bloggers would've been outside my house with torches.

    I'm sure that she was part of the sect – but I'm also sure that she has embellished her stories quite a bit in order to sell books and make money off of her ex- family members.

    May 1, 2008 at 6:45 pm |
  12. Jolene

    So why hasn't Merril Jessop been arrested yet? It doesn't surprise me that the young boys of this sect are being abused and discriminated against. I can only hope that they have enough evidence to start arresting some of the culprits.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    May 1, 2008 at 5:01 pm |
  13. Louise

    Even if there were 1 out of 461 it was still the right thing to do. The facts are showing that there was more than 1 instance of abuse.

    If you saw 1 baby (that had strayed away from 460 others far away from the highway) standing in the middle of a busy highway would you not try to rescue it? Or would you only attempt a rescue if all 461 were in danger?

    Sorry, your reasoning is EXTREMELY flawed Mike in NYC.

    May 1, 2008 at 5:00 pm |
  14. Jennifer in Temecula, CA

    It seems to me that because most of these people living in the polygamist compounds have little exposure to the outside world, they have no idea that what is "normal" to them is actually abuse. Carolyn, I read your book and I was so entranced by it that I read it cover to cover in 2 days. As a new mother to a 9 week old, my heart broke for you and your children. You are an angel from God to many of these women and children as you are now a voice for them, whether they know it or not. Keep sharing your story, we are listening!

    May 1, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  15. A

    Since Carolyn just let her child stay in agony for 3 days with her child with a broken arm, I say we take all of her current children away just like the other mothers. She's just admitted to being complicit to a crime (not reporting child abuse), so she's just at guilty as the other mothers of supposed abused children.

    All that Carolyn is doing here is trying to sell more books. The more severe, the more extreme, the more heinous her assertions are the more sensationalized this story becomes thus the more books she sells. I can see through her story like a clear plate glass window. Yet all of you people who jump to conclusions and believe stuff that hasn't been proven continue to eat her story up. Not surprising though. This is the United States of America, and it's going downhill fast.

    May 1, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  16. Mike in NYC

    41 out of 461?

    Counting only the boys, it's still less than one out of five.

    That doesn't seem any more frequent than you would find on the outside.

    I really don't have anything against young boys working for their families. Just as playing sports will increase a child's likelihood of injury, so will this.

    I'm taking much of what Carolyn Jessop says here with a lot of salt.

    Agendas galore abound in this case.

    May 1, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  17. linda., bella vista, ar

    I wish that this was all just a bad novel, but I know it is not. You and all the others who are bearing witness, seeking help, and offering hope are amazing.

    May 1, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  18. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    In my opinion, these children should never be returned to this compound which appears to be full of abuse. The abuse is used by the stronger men to instill fear in both the children and the women.

    The men should all be held responsible for their crimes against the children and the women should get the psychological and financial help they need to be deprogrammed from this cult.

    May 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  19. Cindy

    Of course the FLDS are going to lie and say that the children are not abused and are taken to the hospital or doctor when needed. They are trying to get their kids back...they'll say anything.

    It's great hearing from someone who has actually been there and done that. Someone who has nothing to gain by telling the truth. Hopefully Carolyn and her family can get passed this and have a great life.

    Cynthia, Ga.

    May 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  20. Lee

    I remember as a seven year old girl telling my grand mother that a male living in my household was sexually abusing me. She said try to stay away from him and be sweet. She never told anyone.

    You see my grandmothers mother was a child from polygamy. They were told you to keep quiet and not rock the boat. These same beleifs or what ever you call them took at least 3 generations to go away.

    May 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  21. Tina

    The FLDS findings along with the seemingly increasing number of violent acts against children by family are heart-wrenching. Children having to experience the fear, shame, guilt, injury and death even at the hands of family.

    The mothers who want their children back have grown accustomed to just follow instructions rather than do what is best or right for each person. And I am not a believer that they can or will be able to make the necessary adjustment within the confines of their "compound" life style.

    Congratulations Arthur and Carolyn – transitions can be difficult but you had each others support.

    May 1, 2008 at 1:38 pm |
  22. Melissa

    I have mixed feelings with this post...a part of me feels Carolyn Jessop is just as guilty as the men who abused these boys and girls by staying in the situation. On the other hand if that's what she was born into, how would've she known any better. I'm glad they left and have moved on to more productive lives and hope that they help other like them.

    May 1, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  23. Lynn Lake County, CA

    I can't imagine living like that, I commend you and your children for your strenth and courage !!!

    May 1, 2008 at 1:15 pm |
  24. Jenny

    Excellant point Ms Jessop. As a DFCS workers I was charged with investigating cases of abue, neglect and exploitaion involving children. I asume the workers in Texas do the same. I am so glad the boys are getting the help that they need as well.

    May 1, 2008 at 12:53 pm |