16 Sep 2007

Dress fitting was like 'getting ready for death,' teen bride testifies

CanWest News Service - Vancouver Sun

September 15, 2007

by Daphne Bramham

ST. GEORGE, UTAH - Jurors heard dramatic and emotional testimony Friday from the woman who at 14 says she was forced by Warren Jeffs, the prophet of a fundamentalist Mormon sect, to marry her first cousin.

As her mother and sister were fitting her with her wedding dress, Jane Doe - as she is referred to in court - recollected to the jury Friday, "I felt like I was getting ready for death."

Jeffs is charged with two counts of being an accomplice to rape.

The girl alleged Jeffs insisted the pair be married in a religious ceremony even though she had repeatedly begged not to have to marry her 19-year-old first cousin, and that she be allowed to wait a few years before marrying anyone.

If Jeffs is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Jeffs's father, Rulon, was the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time. It is the largest polygamous sect in North America and has no affiliation with the mainstream Mormon church.

Doe, who cannot be identified, said it was Rulon who had received a revelation from God that she was to marry her cousin.

Stopping occasionally to wipe tears, Doe described being "scared," "shocked" and "extremely upset" at the prospect of marrying when she was only 14 to a man who had taunted and bullied her as a child.

Marrying at 14 without the permission of parents and a judge is illegal in Utah, but this was a religious marriage. Marrying a first cousin is also illegal in the state.

Doe - who is now 21- went first to her mother, then her stepfather asking that the marriage not go ahead. Finally she went to see Rulon.

"I was kneeling next to him and he took my hand and said what can I do for you. I told him I didn't want to get married. I was too young. I didn't want to defy the prophet, but I wanted to wait two years until I was at least 16 or if he could find someone other than (her cousin)," Doe told the jury.

Rulon, who had suffered a serious stroke, seemed confused by what he'd been told by Doe, who said she was emotional and crying.

"I slowed down and tried to compose myself. Warren jumped in and said, 'This young lady is asking you to find another placement (marriage),'" Doe said. "Rulon looked up at Warren and patted my hand and said, 'Follow your heart, sweetie. Follow your heart.'"

Doe said she was relieved that someone was finally listening to her. But as she walked out with Warren Jeffs, Doe said he told her that she was defying the prophet, that she wasn't being a good person, a worthy girl.

The wedding went ahead a few days later.

As she began recounting her wedding day, Doe broke down in tears. Following a recess Doe told how twice she refused to say her vows. Finally Warren Jeffs insisted that her mother take one hand, while the groom held her other.

Through tears, with her head down, Doe said 'I do.' She tried to refuse a kiss from her cousin, but Jeffs insisted they seal the vows with a kiss. Jeffs instructed them, "Go forth and multiply and replenish the Earth with priesthood children," and Doe said she ran out of the room and locked herself in the bathroom.

The couple went on a honeymoon, but Doe said there was little sexual contact. Even kissing and hugging was abhorrent to her. She said she had never been touched by a man before and had no idea how babies were made.

Her husband kept insisting and Doe said she kept begging him not to touch her in "private places."

One night while they were in a park and she was looking up at the stars, her husband got up and exposed his genitals to her.

"I turned away. I shut my eyes. I said put that away. I don't want to see it."

Later that night, she described being "petrified" when she went into their bedroom. He undressed her and himself. And when he said that this is what married people were supposed to do, she grabbed the blankets and ran out of the room.

Among those crowded into the courtroom Friday was Utah's Attorney-General Mark Shurtleff, who said he'd flown down from Salt Lake City to see how the trial was going. There were also members of Jeffs's family and some of his followers along with media from every major American news outlet.

Jane Doe's testimony continued Friday afternoon.


No comments:

Post a Comment