Many women fleeing polygamist unions suffered sex abuse, guilt: Psychologist
VANCOUVER — A clinical psychologist from Utah, testifying Thursday at court hearing testing the validity of Canada's polygamy law, described the dark side of plural marriages in fundamentalist Mormon communities.
Dr. Lawrence Beall was the second witness called in a case being heard in B.C. Supreme Court on whether Canada's polygamy laws are constitutional.
Beall told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman that he had counselled 30 "polygamy survivors" — 16 men and 14 women.
He said the women, aged between 27 and 42, had fled their communities while the men, aged 16 to 21, had been expelled.
Many of the people he treated had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had difficulty leaving their communities and adjusting to the outside world, he said.
Many had suffered physical or sexual abuse while in their communities, and tended to suffer from feelings of guilt and shame, he added.
"Another thing that the young women had that seemed unusual was a robotic type of presentation," he told the judge.
"They shut down on their feelings, a numbness. I never saw anger in the women, but I did see anger in the men."
Older men in the community engaged in "sexual grooming" of the younger girls, a process in which they first tried to win their trust before making sexual contact, Beall said.
"When the older man is a church leader, it's much more problematic. She believes he would never harm her because he's close to God. She believes to deny him what he wants is the equivalent of denying God."
Beall described the difficulties experienced by women with children leaving the communities.
"These people have been taught that if they don't give complete compliance, they will lose their salvation," he told court. "None of us can probably appreciate that. It means they're losing everything."
When the women come to him for treatment, safety is often an issue because "they're often pursued after they leave the community," said the psychologist.
Under cross-examination from a lawyer representing fundamentalist Mormons, Beall expanded on that theme, saying women were often afraid and "some feared for their lives."
Polygamy has been illegal in Canada since 1890, although there hasn't been a prosecution in the past 50 years. Two religious leaders — Winston Blackmore and James Oler of Bountiful, in southeastern B.C. — were charged in 2008, but those charges were stayed. That case was the genesis of the current constitutional reference case.
Earlier the court heard from Blackmore's ex-wife.
Ruth Lane told the judge she objected to the media posting video affidavits she had filed in court on the Internet.
Lane at first claimed that the reason she objected was because she hadn't told her story before, despite prior TV interviews.
Then, under questioning from media lawyer Dan Burnett, she appeared to retreat from that position and said she objected because she had not given permission for the videos to be on the Internet.
The judge said he would give his ruling on that matter at a later date.
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The Globe and Mail - Canada December 3, 2010
The Many Faces of Polygamy
by Wendy Stueck
When B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman last month began a landmark reference on Canada's polygamy law, he surveyed the dozens of lawyers in the courtroom - some of whom had to sit in seats normally reserved for a jury - and told them they weren't allowed to change places from that point on, as he would likely need a map to keep them straight.
That kicked off what Judge Bauman called a historical reference into the constitutionality of Canada's criminal prohibition against polygamy, which was enacted in 1890 but has been rarely used.
In 2009, Winston Blackmore and James Oler - rival religious leaders in the community of Bountiful - were each charged with one count of polygamy. But those charges were stayed on legal grounds relating to how the province pursued the charges. Rather than appeal, the province pursued a reference to the B.C. Supreme Court.
The reference, which combines elements of a trial and a public hearing, will consider two questions: whether Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and what are the elements of the offence - that is, does it have to involve a minor or to have occurred in a context of dependence or exploitation.
The Attorneys-General of British Columbia and Canada are arguing that the law should be upheld, based on the harm to women, children and society that is allegedly associated with the practice. A court-appointed amicus curiae, or friend of the court, is arguing that the law is unconstitutional and should be struck down.
The case also features about a dozen interested parties, including the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the mainstream Mormon Church in the 1930s over the issue of polygamy.
About 500 FLDS members live in Bountiful, which was split by a religious succession battle in 2002. The town's other residents, about 500, are former FLDS members who remain loyal to Winston Blackmore, who was deposed in the split.
The Attorneys-General and the amicus have outlined their positions and grilled the first two expert witnesses, who presented starkly opposing views of polygamy.
Angela Campbell, a law professor from McGill University who interviewed women in Bountiful, said they told her they chose the polygamous lifestyle. Ms. Campbell argued that the criminal prohibition against polygamy is not effective and can discourage women from seeking help from outside agencies.
Lawrence Beall, a clinical psychologist from Utah, said he had treated men and women "polygamy survivors" and that many suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder related to sexual or physical abuse.
He described FLDS as having a caste system that gave advantages to an inner circle based on family ties. All but one of the people he treated were outside of that privileged circle, he said.
In the United States, FLDS leader Warren Jeffs this week was extradited to Texas from Utah, where he had been jailed since his arrest in 2006. He faces charges of bigamy and sexual assault.
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Polygamy - Dr. Lawrence Beall expert witness affidavit
Polygamy - Angela Campbell affidavit
Polygamy - Angela Campbell affidavit #2
The Globe and Mail - Canada December 3, 2010
Affidavits tell of overarching church control
by Wendy Stueck
The reference case on polygamy unfolding in B.C. Supreme Court features dozens of lawyers, a series of expert witnesses and a weighty cache of written material. The case also features affidavits of people who live, or used to live, in communities where polygamy is practised. The Attorney-General of B.C., who - along with the Attorney-General of Canada - wants Canada's criminal prohibition against polygamy to be upheld, recorded 14 video affidavits of people who had left fundamentalist Mormon communities.
In her affidavit, Ms. Broadbent says she grew up in and around Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints communities in Utah. Her father had two wives, each of whom had 11 children.
She has 12 children of her own. Several of them left the FLDS community before Ms. Broadbent did, several years ago.
"They left because they were told they couldn't have friends over," Ms. Broadbent says in an interview with a lawyer for the province. "They couldn't have friends. They were always watched any time they went anywhere. My girls wanted to go horseback riding. And their dad would actually drive around in the truck to watch to see if they were talking to boys or getting in trouble."
Church teaching prohibits contact between young people of the opposite sex.
She remembers being told: "Boys are like snakes. They're poison. They'll bite you, and take a girl's virginity and shoot it all to hell."
One of Ms. Broadbent's daughters ran away repeatedly, beginning when the girl was 13.
"She'd run away seven different times and finally the seventh time I helped her out and I told her, 'Cut your hair. Cut your hair and you can't come back.' "
Ms. Broadbent says she ultimately left the community to protect her youngest daughter, whom she feared would be married at church elders' orders.
In his affidavit, Mr. Ream says he was born in Magna, Utah, and grew up as one of 31 children, including 18 "full-blooded" siblings and 12 half-brothers and half-sisters.
As a teen, he got into trouble for having a relationship with a young woman. He was sent to Bountiful, B.C., to work at a lumber operation owned by Winston Blackmore - who was leader of the FLDS community of Bountiful until a church power struggle early this decade and remains the head of about 500 residents who stayed loyal to him after the split.
After a stint in Bountiful, Mr. Ream came back to Utah with the hope of settling down in the FLDS community.
"I started focusing everything on being that picture-perfect person that everybody told me I needed to be in order to be worthy of receiving a wife. Because I am a family man. I love my children. And I wanted to have children. And as long as I stayed part of that society, that was a privilege that was not going to be extended unless I could convince some influential people that I was worthy and capable of such responsibility."
After leaving the FLDS, Mr. Ream became one of the plaintiffs in a landmark "lost boys" case filed against FLDS leaders in 2004. Settlements arising from that case are still being negotiated in U.S. courts.
In her affidavit, Ruth Lane says she was born in Colorado City, Ariz. Her father had two wives and Ms. Lane grew up as one of 15 children.
"I loved growing up out there, it was nice to live in a close community where you feel safe."
At 19, at her request, she became the 10th wife of Winston Blackmore. A couple of months later, her sister became his 11th.
"The first couple of years for me were golden, they were ideal. We all had fun until we had kids and started getting cramped."
She left when she became pregnant for the seventh time, frustrated and disenchanted with her relationship with Mr. Blackmore.
While she would no longer choose polygamy for herself, she hopes the constitutional reference case will result in the practice being decriminalized.
"I am very excited there is going to be an answer one way or another," Ms. Lane says in her interview. "I really would like the people that want to do that lifestyle - if my daughter does choose that lifestyle, I would very much like her to be able to live it within the law. I would like her to have the ability to be proud and be a somebody, not just a plural wife, but a wife."
In his affidavit, Brent Jeffs says he grew up in Sandy, Utah.
He was one of 21 children born to his father and three women.
There was tension between the wives and their children, Mr. Jeffs recalls.
"For me, it was nothing but chaos and yelling and screaming and everyone fighting for attention and never getting it."
He went to the Alta Academy, a now-closed FLDS school in Salt Lake City. Instruction included church doctrine. Boys were taught that girls were "poison snakes" and not to associate with them.
He left the community as a teenager after clashing with American FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.
Brent Jeffs has published an account, Lost Boy, of his experiences, including alleged sexual abuse by Warren Jeffs.
The harms associated with polygamy include "child trauma," Brent Jeffs says.
"The laws of polygamy are nothing but these men wanting control over a group of people and it started in the very beginning with Joseph Smith," Mr. Jeffs says in his interview. "And I have no ill feeling toward any church and what they want to believe but when you harm children and you tear families apart and ruin people's lives, that's when I step in and say, 'Absolutely not, this is not how people should live.' "
In her affidavit, Rena Mackert says she was born in Short Creek, a town on the Utah-Arizona border.
Her mother was the third wife of her father, who had four wives in total.
Children were taught to conceal the fact that they were being raised in a polygamous family.
Ms. Mackert says she was sexually abused by her father.
Her parents told her at 17 she was to be married. She had four children in five years, and faced questions from a church leader who accused her of using birth control when she went more than a year without bearing a child.
"I saw so many disparities growing up. We were the saints of God, but we had to hide. We were God's chosen but we couldn't tell anyone who we are. We were required to lie. We were taught to lie -to everyone, except those who believe as we do. If we forgot, the repercussions were the child's fault."
When her husband divorced her after five years of marriage, Ms. Mackert was to be married to an older man. She fled, returning later with court papers that allowed her to take her children.
She and her sister, Kathleen Mackert - who has also provided a video affidavit in the reference case - now run a non-profit group in Anacortes, Wash., to assist "victims of domestic violence and polygamy."
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Stop Polygamy in Canada website has notes taken by observers in the courtroom as well as links to most of the affidavits and research the court is considering in this case.
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