21 Apr 2008

Why cult families will struggle to start a new life

The Independent - UK
April 21, 2008

by Patricia Casey

Last week, 415 terrified and shocked women, children and teenagers were escorted from a compound in Texas by the police and social workers.

The children now reside at Fort Concho, a former cavalry base deep in the heartland of Texas, where reportedly they can be heard sobbing and wailing for the mothers they have not seen in almost a week.

They were free from the clutches of Warren Jeffs, the cult leader of Yearning for Zion (YFZ), a breakaway group from the Mormon church which in the 1930s outlawed polygamy. YFZ promulgates this practice and encourages the 'sealing' of 'celestial marriages' between men and much younger women, some only 13.

Physical abuses, including beatings, are reportedly common. The grim details are described in Escape by Carolyn Jessop, a former member who, along with her eight children, ran away in 2003.

Cults use techniques of mind control, fear, exclusivity, love-bombing, etc, to maintain their control -- and Jeffs and his followers resorted to most of these.

Imagine being told that you were a member of an elite group that would be saved come the Last Day. Imagine growing up to produce your own food and never to have used a supermarket trolley. Your whole persona will have grown out of that environment and the structure will have embedded you in certainty.

Even if it was abusive, it is all that you have known.

The women and children who have been rescued from YFZ are now residing in a place that they perceive as unwelcoming, dangerous and wicked. So too their children, who are being cared for in an environment that is so different from the one they have left that it is almost another civilisation.

Terrible things happened to these women and children. Yet, for them, they have been uprooted from their entire, familiar world without warning.

It is astounding that some children abused by their parents still yearn for their love. They deal with the abuse by detaching themselves from what is happening and this allows them to maintain a different image of their parents. And some cry for their parents when they are taken into care notwithstanding the awfulness to which they were exposed.

So the children from YFZ will have to make a painful and fraught transition into a new world that they believe is hostile and evil.

They will have their mothers to help them and that is some consolation, yet some of these women will also be in turmoil as they have to face similar challenges.

How can they adjust to a society in which their pretty teenage daughters will undoubtedly be asked on dates by their male classmates? To try to understand the enormity of what has happened in their lives, we must imagine how we would respond if we were suddenly transported into a society in which women wore head-dress and long clothes and in which marriages were arranged.

The rescue of these people from the compound in San Angelo was necessary and justified, but it is just possible that for many, the problems are only beginning.

Patrica Casey is professor of psychiatry at UCD and consultant psychiatrist at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. pcasey@independent.ie Regretfully, no correspondence can be entered into

- Patricia Casey

This article was found at:


No comments:

Post a Comment