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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.
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