14 Jan 2009

130 turn out for Carolyn Jessop [Escape] book signing

GoSanAngelo.com - January 13, 2009

By Jayna Boyle

Several people waiting in line at Carolyn Jessop's book-signing described her story the same way: brave.
At least 130 people turned out at Hastings in San Angelo to see Jessop, author of "Escape," and share a word or two with her.
The book is her memoir of life in a polygamist "marriage" in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and how she broke away with her eight children.
Jessop's former husband, Merril Jessop, was the leader of the FLDS group at the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado that authorities raided in April. More than 400 children were temporarily taken into state custody.
"I think there's quite a bit of interest here," Carolyn Jessop said recently.
Willie Jessop, a sect elder who is a spokesman for the FLDS, said Tuesday that he has not read Carolyn Jessop's book. He said more families continue to return to the YFZ Ranch to resume their way of life, and he is grateful for that.
Of the book-signing, Willie Jessop said, "I'm disappointed she would exploit such a tragic situation and use it for her own personal gain." He was referring to the state raid on the sect's ranch.
At the book signing, Callie Albus of San Angelo said she kept up with the news during the YFZ raid, but that Carolyn Jessop's book gives details about the FLDS that weren't on the news.
Cynthia Chavez of San Angelo just received Jessop's book as a gift and brought it with her to the signing. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, partially because she enjoyed studying about radical religions.
"I plan to spend most of tonight reading it," Chavez said.
K. Dee Ignatin traveled from Dallas to be at the book signing. She was a reporter near Colorado City, Ariz. - an FLDS community - and spent three and a half years researching the sect.
Ignatin is looking for volunteers to help her put together a petition to create Texas legislation that would allow polygamous wives to maintain full custody of their children if they choose to leave the FLDS.
"We can't let it happen to Texas women and children," she said of families being torn apart if a woman decides to leave the group.
Carolyn Jessop said she thinks some good did come out of the raid because it created awareness of what was going on in the FLDS.
"When it first happened," Jessop said of the raid, "I was shocked, alarmed, concerned. But hopeful.
"It was difficult for me because the kids went back," she said.
She said she thinks some of the tendencies of the group - banning the color red, removing televisions, radios and books and slaughtering animals in front of children - have slowed down since FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was sent to prison. But she is still concerned that things may get worse. If men are having sex with underage girls, Jessop said, she thinks oppression will only escalate.
Retaliation from the group has been a concern for Jessop, but she said she has good protection, and the Utah Attorney General's Office is aware of her situation.
"It's worth doing whatever it takes to get out," she said.
She had to come to grips with her fears, but decided she would be worse off if she stayed in her abusive marriage. Jessop said she gave up everything for the unknown, but that she is now happier than she ever thought possible.
"I didn't want my daughters to go through what I went through," Jessop said.
She said she still follows a few core values from the FLDS, and she believes in a higher power, but she is not part of any organized religion.
Jessop said she wouldn't rule out the possibility that a healthy polygamist relationship could exist, but she never witnessed one. She said everyone in a family would have to be happy for her to consider it a healthy relationship.
Many in her family have left the FLDS, but several are still part of the group. She has contact with very few people but says she knows that they would never admit they ever talk to her.

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