CBC News - Canada December 8, 2010
Polygamy hearing shown woman's account of abuse
Video affidavit 1 of 4 shown in Vancouver courtroom as part of constitutional case
Rena Mackert sat in tears in the front row of a Vancouver courtroom Wednesday as she watched a video of herself recounting a childhood marked by sexual and physical abuse she says is the direct result of the polygamous life she was born into.
Mackert was the first of 14 women and children who once lived in polygamous communities to offer videotaped testimony in a B.C. Supreme Court case examining Canada's polygamy law.
Mackert was born in 1953 in an area that later became known as Colorado City, Ariz. Her mother was the third wife of a man who went on to marry a fourth woman and whose family eventually grew to include 31 children.
Sitting in her home in Anacortes, Wash., the 56-year-old told a B.C. government lawyer about being sexually abused when she was three years old.
"My father molested me for the first time that I know of," Mackert said in a calm voice, her eyes often closed or looking away from the camera.
"It was forced oral sex. I cried and begged and pleaded. He slapped me and pulled my hair. He slapped me and spanked me and told me what a bad girl I was, that if I told anyone what a bad girl I was, he would have to spank me very severely."
The abuse continued for more than a decade, said Mackert, and all the while she was convinced it was her fault after years of being "indoctrinated" that women must submit to men.
Women told they're responsible
"So, from the onset of the sexual abuse from my father, it was very clear to me that I was a bad, evil person and I'd done something to cause my priestly father to do those things," she said in the video affidavit, one of four shown in court on Wednesday.
The rest will be presented as the hearings in the constitutional case testing Canada's polygamy ban continue over the next two months.
"We were taught that a woman's responsible for a man's behaviour, sexually," Mackert says in the video. "If you dress in a way, tight clothing, clothing that shows your skin, and a man thinks evil thoughts, it's the woman's fault."
Mackert was born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS. The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago, and it is the sect linked to the isolated community of Bountiful, B.C.
It was the failed prosecution of two religious leaders of Bountiful that prompted the B.C. government to ask the court to examine whether Canada's ban on multiple marriage is in accordance with the guarantee of religious freedom in the Charter of Rights.
Outside court, Mackert said her experience wasn't unusual among the polygamous families she knew, where women and children had no rights.
"This is not about religious freedom," she told reporters after watching her video affidavit in court. "This is about abuse. There was sexual abuse in just about every home."
Mackert's family moved to the Salt Lake City area when she was around seven years old, but she said the abuse continued until she was about 16 — a year before she was married.
Regained custody of children
Mackert was forced to marry her stepbrother, with whom she had three children. Five years later, they divorced when Mackert's husband declared he wanted out of the polygamous lifestyle.
She said she was told by the man leading the church at the time, Leroy Johnson, that she would be forced to marry a man in his 50s who was already married to her sister. She refused and also took it as an opportunity to tell Johnson about the abuse she had suffered.
"He demanded to know why I was lying about one of God's priesthood holders; he told me that I was a liar," she said in the video.
A few days later, she was ordered to leave without her children. She moved to California, where she met a lawyer who helped her return 11 months later and retrieve her kids.
It took her years to overcome the psychological scars of her childhood, Mackert said, and she hasn't completely healed. She struggled with drug and alcohol abuse into her 40s and said she still suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Participating in the B.C. case, she said, has helped.
"I got no justice for my father and the mistreatment, and though I am not getting justice here, my voice is heard, and it needed to be," she told reporters.
"I feel like I've been validated, the things I went through."
This article was found at:
The Province - B.C., Canada December 9, 2010
Sexual abuse at U.S. polygamist community, court hears (graphic content)
by Keith Fraser | The Province
For the first time, a B.C. Supreme Court trial examining the constitutionality of Canada’s polygamy law Wednesday heard from women who say their lives were destroyed by the practice.
Since the trial began Nov. 22, the court had heard only legal arguments and the testimony of various experts. But on Wednesday, four women, including one who was sent to the Bountiful commune near Creston, told the court in videotaped affidavits of the trauma they suffered after being born into polygamous communities.
One of them, Rena Mackert, sat in court and wept as she watched her statement being played for the judge.
The sexual abuse for Rena Mackert began at the age of three, when her polygamous father forced her to perform oral sex on him.
“I cried and begged and pleaded. He slapped me and pulled my hair,” the former Utah woman recalled during a video affidavit played in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
“He spanked me and told me what a bad girl I was, to be quiet. So from the onset of the sexual abuse with my father it was very clear to me that I was a bad, evil person.”
The 56-year-old woman said the sexual abuse continued until a year before she was forced into an arranged marriage, at the age of 17.
She was awoken in the early hours one morning and told that her new husband was to be her stepbrother.
“I sat there stunned. I didn’t want to get married. I just wanted out. It was like a knife that stabbed me in the heart.”
Mackert, whose father had four wives and 31 children, said she had three children in five years but then got divorced.
The religious leaders in the fundamentalist Mormon community told her that she must marry another man, who was in his late 50s and was already married to one of her sisters.
She refused and had a confrontation with a religious leader and then her father.
“(My father) grabbed me and led me out the door and told me what an evil, vile person I was — I was not his daughter — and to never set foot on God’s property again.”
She was forced to leave without her children, she said.
Asked whether she considered going to the police, she said it was the last thing she’d have done.
“First of all, I didn’t know I had legal custody of my children. The program, the indoctrination, no matter what, you don’t call the authorities. They’re the enemy.”
Her children were told that their mother didn’t want them and had just left them, she said.
She tried going back to pick up the kids several months later but her mother came out and told her she was a “wilful, disobedient” child and “it would have been better that I’d never been born.”
Mackert said she got some legal advice and returned 11 months later, with a stack of legal documents, and told her father that she was leaving with her kids or he was going to prison, she said.
Mackert had trouble adjusting to life on the outside, abusing drugs and alcohol.
“I developed a drug addiction, another way to numb out. It has been a constant struggle for years.”
A similar tale of woe was told in a video statement by Mackert’s sister, Kathleen Mackert.
Her sexual abuse at the hands of the father began at the age of five.
“It devastated me as a child growing up.”
The abuse stopped when she was 17, when she warned him that she would tell the priesthood if he didn’t cease his attacks.
Her family and the religious leaders began preparing her for marriage at the age of 14 and she saw her sisters all being married off to much older men.
One sister at the age of 16 married “the prophet” — a religious leader in his late '80s. That sister never had any children because of the husband’s advanced age.
She had nightmares as she imagined she was being strapped into a “breeding stall” to be impregnated against her will.
“I had fears of never being shown love and affection and just making babies.”
She was married off at the age of 18, despite being considered an “old maid” at that age — also to a stepbrother.
“It felt psychologically abusive,” she said, even though her stepbrother was kind.
“In my mind he was no step, he was my brother.”
She eventually had four children but decided when her daughter turned nine years old to flee the community because she didn’t want her youngster to go through what she had suffered.
Apart from the Mackert sisters, who now live in Washington state, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman heard from video affidavits from two other women, called by the B.C. attorney-general’s ministry, which is seeking to uphold the polygamy law.
Teresa Wall, 30, who grew up in a polygamous community in Utah, spoke of being sent away from her family at the age of 13 to the community of Bountiful in B.C.
Winston Blackmore, a religious leader in the community, tried to get her to marry him when she was 17, but she refused.
“I said, ‘You’ll have to kill me. I’d rather die.’”
Eventually she agreed to marry a young man her age, a rare case where a woman was given any choice, she said.
“I was not legally in Canada. I had no papers and I had no money. I thought I had no other choice than to get married.”
Sara Hammon, the fourth video witness, grew up in a polygamy community in Utah with a father who had 19 wives and 75 children.
“I didn’t have a relationship with my dad. He didn’t know my name.”
At the age of 14, she asked to be placed into a marriage.
“I didn’t want to be married to a creepy old man.”
Before she could be married, however, she fled the community, after suffering “a lot of physical, emotional, sexual and mental abuse.”
The judge’s job is to decide whether Canada’s polygamy law is constitutional. The issue was referred to the court after Blackmore and James Oler, another religious leader in Bountiful, had their polygamy charges stayed in 2009.
This article was found at:
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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