2 Feb 2011

Survivor tells Canadian court extreme abuses including water torture of babies common in Mormon polygamist communities

The Victoria Times Colonist - B.C., Canada January 13, 2011

Polygamist sect tortures babies, inquiry hears


Water torture of babies is one way some members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints instil fear of authority, a former member testified Wednesday.

"It's quite common," Carolyn Blackmore Jessop told the constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada's polygamy law is valid.

"They spank the baby and when it cries, they hold the baby face up under the tap with running water. When they stop crying, they spank it again and the cycle is repeated until they are exhausted."

It's typically done by fathers and it's called "breaking in."

Jessop, who is from Arizona, testified about the practice during her testimony in B.C. Supreme Court.

Outside the courthouse, Jessop said water torture is common enough that there doesn't seem any shame attached to the practice.

In her cousin's baby book, there's a handwritten note by her mother noting that when her daughter was 18 months old, she was becoming quite a handful and, as a result, was being held under the tap on a regular basis.

In court, Jessop said water torture was one of the reasons that she gave for gaining sole custody of her children after she left the group in 2003. She said her ex-husband, Merril Jessop, used it on "a lot" of his 54 children including her own.

"Merril was very abusive," she said.

Abuse is one reason Jessop left the fundamentalist church, which has no affiliation with the mainstream Mormon church. As long as she stayed, Jessop felt powerless to protect her children from physical abuse because of the over-arching requirement of unquestioning obedience. The other is that her oldest daughter was 13 when the prophet, Warren Jeffs, began arranging marriages of girls as young as 14.

In the courtroom, Jessop testified that she was terrified of both her ex-husband and of Jeffs, the current head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who is in jail in Texas facing charges of bigamy and sexual assaulting girls.

"Polygamy is not pretty to look at. It is nice that it is tucked away in a dark corner where nobody has to see its realities because it's creepy," she told Chief Justice Robert Bauman, adding that her biggest concern is that polygamy and all of its consequent abuses are ignored by the courts and law enforcement.

Jessop is the granddaughter of Harold Blackmore, who founded the community of Bountiful in southeastern B.C.

Her mother's family have been polygamists since Joseph Smith had his revelation about plural marriage in the mid-1800s.

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CBC News - Canada January 12, 2011

Woman recounts abuse in polygamous family

A woman who grew up in a polygamous community in the United States has told a British Columbia court about her life of fear and abuse, but said she believes Canada's law against polygamy should be overturned.

After 17 years, Carolyn Jessop fled her polygamous marriage to a man who was 32 years older than her. (CBC)

Carolyn Jessop, who grew up in Colorado City, Ariz., in a polygamous family, was testifying Wednesday in Vancouver in a B.C. case examining the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy law.

When she was 18, she was forced to marry a 50-year-old man she didn't know and who already had three wives. She eventually had eight children with him, Jessop said.

She described a house plagued by beatings and emotional abuse, which she said was common throughout the isolated community where men were encouraged to control women and children.

Jessop, now 43, said all marriages were arranged and women were taught that refusing a marriage was a grave sin that amounted to a "death sentence" when it came to her place in the church and in the community.

Jessop fled the community in 2003 and has since written two books and become a vocal critic of polygamy.

Still, Jessop said, polygamy should be decriminalized. She said neither the courts nor the police are enforcing the polygamy law, and she hopes decriminalizing the practice would at least raise the possibility women and children living in polygamy could get help.
Not prosecuted or regulated

"What's happening is children are being born into this, but we don't have the same rights, we don't have any protections," she said.

"It's not being prosecuted, but it's not being regulated, either. My theory is decriminalizing the crime would be giving people some rights, so we have claim to property, we have claim to help."

The B.C. case was prompted by the community of Bountiful, a polygamous commune in the southeastern part of the province with ties to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the U.S.

Bountiful's leaders, Winston Blackmore and James Oler, were each charged with practising polygamy in 2009, but those charges were later thrown out on technical legal grounds.

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The Globe and Mail - Canada January 12, 2011

Former member of polygamist group recounts lifestyle


After five difficult pregnancies, the fifth involving a dangerous complication, Carolyn Blackmore Jessop told her husband she was afraid she might not live through another one and asked whether it was wise to conceive another child.

What mother wouldn’t give her life for her baby, her husband responded. And, when she said she already had five children who needed a mother, he told her not to worry.

They have many mothers, he said. They’ll be fine.

The exchange, recounted by Ms. Jessop in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday, came as she described her life in Colorado City, Ariz., where she grew up and, at 18, was married to a powerful man more than 30 years her senior who already had three wives and dozens of children.

“I grew up feeling like I was a commodity,” Ms. Jessop said of life in the community, whose residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamous sect that has had a long-time Canadian presence in Bountiful.

“And that when I got married, I would be a possession.”

Ms. Jessop fled Colorado City with her eight children in 2003 and has since written two books about her experiences.

She testified in a landmark case that is weighing the constitutionality of Canada’s law prohibiting polygamy. The attorneys-general of Canada and British Columbia are arguing that the law should be upheld because of the harms they say are inextricably linked to the practice. A court-appointed amicus is arguing the law should be struck down because it contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ms. Jessop has spoken publicly, and did so again in court, of decriminalizing polygamy to provide more rights to women in polygamous relationships. But she is not certain that decriminalization would address problems she associates with polygamy, such as the expulsion of young men from communities, the marriages of young girls to much older men and poor education of women and children in closed FLDS communities.

“At some level, these are crimes against children – and those need to be prosecuted,” she said outside court after testifying.

Over several hours in court, Ms. Jessop told how she fought to be allowed to go to school beyond eighth grade and had no choice as to who she was to marry or when that would happen.

“It’s a lot like someone holding a gun to your head and telling you they are going to pull the trigger if you say no,” Ms. Jessop said. “The consequences are pretty significant.”

She also testified that babies are routinely subjected to a bizzare form of abuse, usually by FLDS fathers, to teach them to fear authority. Babies are spanked, she said, and when they cry, they are held face up under running water. When the baby stops crying, it is spanked again "and the cycle is repeated until they are exhausted."

Ms. Jessop said she was terrified of her husband, Merril Jessop, throughout their marriage, and was galvanized to leave out of fears for her children, especially a teenaged daughter Ms. Jessop worried would be spirited away into an arranged marriage.

Beatings, threats and intimidation were routine, she said.

“My fear was that Merril would hurt my kids,” she said. “He had learned he could beat his wives and there was some control there – but if he hurt their kids, he could bring [his wives] to their knees.”

In response to questions from FLDS lawyer Robert Wickett, Ms. Jessop said the funds earned from book advances and royalties were her primary source of income. Under questioning, Ms. Jessop also acknowledged that one of her daughters has given accounts that differ from Ms. Jessop’s and that the daughter has returned to Arizona City to be with her father.

Outside court, Ms. Jessop said she is not in regular contact with that daughter but that her other children are doing well, with some attending college.

Canada’s law against polygamy dates back to 1890. Before charges were laid against Bountiful leaders Winston Blackmore and James Oler in 2009, a polygamy prosecution had not taken place since 1937.

Charges against Mr. Blackmore and Mr. Oler were stayed in 2009 after a court ruling that found flaws in the way the province had pursued the case.

Rather than appealing, the province referred the matter to the B.C. Supreme Court to decide whether the polygamy law is constitutional.

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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.

FLDS bishop of Bountiful will not testify in Canadian polygamy case so his affidavit will not be read into record

Legal expert tells Canadian court polygamy prohibitions and monogamy tradition pre-date Christianity

The issue of women's rights in the Canadian constitutional review of the polygamy law

Before holiday break in constitutional case judge hears conflicting expert testimony on harms associated with polygamy

Expert in polygamy case says society should assume all members of sects have free choice, but what about children?

B.C. government expert in polygamy case sets out long list of social harms, societies that abandon polygamy do better

Court views video affidavits from Mormon fundamentalist survivors detailing pedophilia, incest, child trafficking and forced marriage

Polygamy expert tells court in constitutional case that it reduces women's freedom and equality and leads to forced marriage

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Expert witness in constitutional case on polygamy claims Bountiful women freely choose their own religious oppression

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Pro-polygamy intervenor groups make opening statements as first week of Canadian constitutional case ends

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Polygyny and Canada’s Obligations under International Human Rights Law (pdf)

Research paper submitted to B.C. court in constitutional case documents harms associated with polygamy

Man from Bountiful says girls in Mormon polygamist communities "treated like poison snakes", taught to obey men and have many children

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Review of the positions 12 intervener groups are expected to take in upcoming Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

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Senate hearing: "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Texas Will Attempt to Show That Polygamist Culture Itself Harms Children

FLDS defendants complain their religious freedom violated, while denying religious freedom to their children

Children in Bountiful have religious rights too, but are denied them by parents claiming religious freedom

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