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Polygamy Raid in Texas

You Know You're Obsessed With the Big Polygamy Story

Authorities trying to talk to some of the kids taken from this weekend's big polygamy raid aren't getting much information. After state troopers raided a 1,700-acre West Texas ranch last Friday looking for evidence of the teen, who placed a call authorities a week ago, some 220 women and children have been removed from the premises. The tipoff call came from a girl who allegedly had a baby at 15 and was married to a 50-year-old (under Texas law, girls younger than 16 cannot marry, even with parental approval).

The compound was built by jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, and residents of the compound were practicing a breakaway version of Mormonism, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A local child advocate said of the kids hesitance to talk, "When children live in a pretty secluded environment and they're as sheltered as these children, it's very difficult to get them to talk to you and to open up. If you can get them to a neutral place, they're a lot more prone to answer you truthfully."

220! Women and children! What in the world was going on there?! It's almost beyond comprehension if you're used to the world view that prizes the nuclear family.

But does it make sense that with all our soft-focus pop culture romanticism of polygamy (see Big Love, The Girls Next Door, and any number of easy-watching documentaries about plural marriage on TLC) that we would then vilify this? Do you think polygamy is within a person's religious rights? Are you disgusted or fascinated by this story?


Join The Conversation
burnsrunner burnsrunner 9 years
I am learning to appreciate real life polygamy experiences like memoirs and autobiographies rather than HBO, hollywood versions. Susanna Barlow put out a wonderful memoir called What Peace There May Be. This book gave polygamy a human face. I became completely enthralled in the reading and am highly recommending it.
lbbennett lbbennett 9 years
As a mother, it is out of my entire realm of understanding how the mothers can choose to go back to the commune and leave their children instead of opting to stay with them and protect them while being protected by the state! The children may not know who their 'natural' mother is, but you can bet the mother knows which kids she gave birth to.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
xugglybug - Just saw your post! :) PolySugary FTW! (^-^) Nice to know I'm not the only poly gal around here. Your post was very well put, and you managed to keep your cool much better than I did.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
I'm polyamorous. I have been with one of my "husbands", Dragonflyy, for almost five years, but I am legally married to my other husband, Tau, who I met several years after Dragonflyy and I got together. In my opinion, we don't "romanticize" polygamy in our culture at all. People hear that I'm with more than one person and blast me from every side, making assumptions that I participate in the type of BS that of people were doing. The problem is that polygamy has been taken from a basic term meaning to be married to more than one person, and turned into a term describing a sick, twisted lifestyle where women are forced to marry against their will and live a life of servitude as if they were property. Not to mention they commit what I believe is basically child rape with these underage "marriages". I will never call myself polygamous because of the connotations associated with it. It has come to mean a lack of free will and ownership. I specify that I am polyamorous at every turn, as most polyamorous people do, because it concerns loving more than one person, not this...garbage. I have to spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to fend off comments that associate me with these people when I say I have two husbands, because of the ignorance the media portrays when it comes to people who are married to more than one person. Not to mention, nobody has a damn clue what polyamory means. But I would never dare call myself polygamous, because I have no desire to equate myself with these people. What ticks me off to no end are ignorant comments like those made by Citizen in her post. I'm sorry, but to my knowledge, Big Love isn't about 15 year old girls being shanghaied into a marriage against their will and basically raped. It isn't about women who are basically living the life equivalent to a servant. I don't see how you can claim that our "soft focus pop culture romanticism" of polygamy could ever justify or vilify this sort of behavior. There's a difference between focusing on loving relationships and focusing on abuse, neglect, child endangerment, and rape. And I'll be damned if my relationship is anything like that. To answer the next question: Yes, as far as I'm concerned, marriage to more than one person should be legal, as long as all parties are consenting adults. Forget it being within our religous rights, it should be within our human rights. As human beings, we have the right to love whomever we love. As for whether or not I'm fascinated or disgusted by this story: Disgusted, just as any person is. No one would be fascinated by this, even people who are interested in the idea of polygamy at it's core as being group marriage, because this has NOTHING to do with polygamy and everything to do with a group of people who are abusing other human beings. Once again, the media equates people who love more than one person as being immoral, depraved, inhumane slugs who have no regard for other human beings just because the people committing these atrocious acts are polygamous. What I find ironic is we equate these things with polygamy, so why is it that we do not equate all monogamous married couples as child abusers considering the VAST number of parents who neglect, abuse, and endanger their children? How about the number of men who rape their little girls? I don't see the media claiming that all fathers are child molestors or child rapists because of that. If you ask me, the media doesn't romanticize polygamy, if anything the media and our culture turn polygamy and anything even remotely related to it into a sensationalist buffet where they damn the different without really looking deeper into the situation.
Hootie Hootie 9 years
The Hope Organization: Abuse is Rampant! Young, underage girls are forced into marriage. Women and children are beaten. There is rape and incest. Allegations of tax and welfare fraud exist. Young boys are run out of town because they become the "competition", as there are never enough women to supply the demand for wives. The prophet teaches racism. There are rumors about a cache of weapons to be used to defend themselves, if necessary. Young girls are taken back and forth across international borders to become "child brides." People are evicted from their homes just because the men in control don't like their attitude. Many children are denied a basic education and spend their days working at hard labor or tending to their siblings instead of going to school.
just_kelly just_kelly 9 years
xugglybug - FLDS are NOT modern day Mormons. Please read the couple post above that speak to this point...
xugglybug xugglybug 9 years
Not that the ethics and idea of polygamy is even what this article is about: It amazes me how so few people don't realise that poly relationships aren't about men having lots of women hanging off their arms: it's about loving more than one person, no matter your or their gender. It invlves consent and in my mind, what Mormons practice, including the marrying off of young girls and turning them into mothers is NOT consensual and thus nothing like what I want to be related to. I'm in a relatively small "poly web" - I'm female, and I have two male partners. One of them has a boyfriend as well, and *he* has several other boyfriends too. Admittedly, this isn't polygamy in the true sense of the word because there's no marriage involved; I call it polyamory. Why would a woman want to be in a relationship like that? Well, maybe because it makes her happy? I understand when people say to me "I get why you do it but I couldn't because [whatever reason]" but It seems to me that they aren't being arrested for this on the basis that they keep out of the way in Utah. What they *are* being arrested for is the abuse of young girls - and surely that's what people should be focusing on, instead of the ethics and choices some women make about their relationships? (I reiterate: I know many Mormon women aren't given the choice, but then, I don't consider that to be a true poly(gamy/amorous/whatever) relationship because it doesn't involve consent.)
duck-duck-goose duck-duck-goose 9 years
"But it should go both ways. I'll have two husbands, please!" That would be the practice of polyandry. ;)
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
I don't think it's an issue of religious freedom here - it's the whole system of bringing up children in this belief, and of raping children and forcing them to marry old men and become mindless breeding machines. (And the practice of throwing away the boys, so that there's an appropriate gender imbalance to allow a man to have many wives.) That's wrong, religion or no religion. That said, I think if people want to enter into polygamous relationships as consenting adults, in a normal social situation, then that's really nobody's business. But it should go both ways. I'll have two husbands, please! :-p
pattilup pattilup 9 years
i absolutely agree that this sect is not representative of the mainstream mormon church, and it's too bad that it will reflect on an entire group of people who have nothing to do with this behavior. it also has nothing to do with other, consenting polygamous groups. the FLDS sect is not at all comparable to the "big love" series. anyone interested in the daily life of a young girl in the FLDS and what happens when you're married off to a man 3X your age should read "escape" by carolyn jessop. she was the first woman to successfully leave the sect with all of her children. the book is heart-wrenching. carolyn is also the woman responsible for starting the investigation into warren jeffs by providing all the details of her story to the utah and arizona state attorney's offices.
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Now I think the update is that there are over 400 of them that have been removed. duck - I hear you, and I think that's important for people to understand too. I kind of wanted to put that out there, too (what you said) but I dont really know enough about it to really speak to it. Most of what I've absorbed about this topic I've gotten from Big Love, but that is also why I think it is such a great show, because it shows a good example of how Mormons have really disassociated themselves from polygamy.
GigglyGirl GigglyGirl 9 years
IF they weren't hurting anyone (yet it seems like they were, if they were forcing children into things...but IF they weren't) then I think they should be able to live the way they want to.
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
I love Big Love. It's such a good show. And I saw that episode of Oprah with the polygamists who seemed 'normal' and like anyone else I've ever met. They didn't wear clothes like these people, or live on a farm (animal farm or human farm?), or rape little girls. It was basically like Big Love where it was just a few women, doing things we all do. Except for the sharing their husband part. This story is sad and tragic, but the polygamy lifestyle in general is fascinating to me.
duck-duck-goose duck-duck-goose 9 years
"I was pretty tolerant of Mormons and polygomy both, even though neither one is for me. But when it involves those who are under the legal age, it doesnt even seem like a religious practice anymore, it just seems wrong." Yes, but this fundamentalist splinter sect is NOT Mormon. Their practices do *not* reflect the practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These people are from a very small whackadoodle off-shoot that is not recognized by the mainstream LDS church. These are not your Mormons-next-door. These are not the missionaries that come knocking on your door. It is critical that all of us understand that anyone currently practicing polygamy cannot also be a member of the LDS church. If a member of the church begins practicing polygamy after becoming baptized, they are excommunicated. It sickens me that an entire religion (LDS) is held accountable for the practices of those who are not members, and who could never become members while continuing their current practices. It is good to see that I'm not the only person a bit alarmed by unfair anti-mormon sentiment and widespread ignorance. (I'm not trying to put additional meaning to your post, just_kelley; I mean only to show that I appreciate your fairness in posting accurate info about the LDS church.) I'd feel ill to see any religion attacked, just because it shared its early beginnings with an eccentric off-shoot sect.
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
I remain fascinated by this story. Y'all make some really good points.
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
I love Big Love too! I think even before I watched it I was pretty tolerant of Mormons and polygomy both, even though neither one is for me. But when it involves those who are under the legal age, it doesnt even seem like a religious practice anymore, it just seems wrong. I wouldnt really consider the girls next door to be a good example of polygomy. I dont think any of those people are Mormon.
amers230 amers230 9 years
did anyone see the oprah episode on polygamy a few weeks ago? i watched it while working out and it seems like there are different types of polygamy. one is the type this article talks about, where old men are marrying underage girls and the women are obviously powerless within their society. to me this is disgusting and i can't even imagine living like that, but it's totally cyclical. kids are raised within the culture, never leave because they never know anything better (and are usually taught that the rest of the world is horrible and dangerous) and then raise their own kids with the same mindset. the second type of polygamy was more like the "girls next door" where the women are all consenting adults and the men are pretty normal, not as egotistical and "men are better than women" as the first group. this kind still makes me really uneasy and i don't really understand it at all, but one of the wives in a marriage like that had a good point on the show. she said something like "there are so many different lifestyles and family-types accepted by society, we just want the same consideration." still doesn't sit well with me but as long as everyone is of legal age and consenting to the situation, whatever.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Our society acknowledges that men have sex with young girls more often than older women have sex with young boys, but they are much more forgiving of women who have sex with young boys. Just look at the female teachers who had sex with some of their students. They got of with little or no jail time. If a mane had done that, he would be jailed for 20yrs or more.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
I personally feel like our society in general is more accepting of adults having sex with young girls, versus young boys. How else do you explain such little outrage over R.Kelly, who was literally a child predator? R. Kelly met some of his victims by handing out his number when he would visit high schools to work with their choirs. It wasn't like these girls were backstage hos, trying to seduce him. He took advantage of the mentor relationship. He should have been in jail a long time ago. Pretty sad.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
How is it praising God in anyway when you have lecherous old men taking advantage of chilren and stealing their innocence. Polygamy is still practised by a sect back home and one of my cousins had to be rescued when at the age of 14 they were marrying her off to a 69 year old man. My aunt sent the cops to go get her and she forcibly adopted so she wouldn't have to go back and smuggld her out of the country. she was lucky but tere are just way too many horror stories.
rpenner rpenner 9 years
I also 100% agree with that statement Popgoestheworld/Jillness. Couldn't have stated my own opinion better
Jillness Jillness 9 years
Popgoestheworld said: "I'm all for consenting adults doing what they want to sexually. It's none of my business. But when you're coupling a 15 year old with a 50 year old against her will (or even NOT against her will if she is too subverted to complain) that is another issue." I agree 100%!
megnmac megnmac 9 years
KrisSugar - you bring out a great point. This IS the only life they know, which makes it so hard to leave. Whether they want to go or not, there is a part of them that believes they're going against God when they go against the church. In the 1950s AZ did a raid, and the media showed crying babies and wives, and the next 50 years law enforcement was afraid to get involved - even in cases of clear child abuse. It is a new era of law enforcement trying to be sensitive to the polygamists, and their rights as parents and families, but to ultimately seek to protect the children in this closed off society.
pequeña pequeña 9 years
15 year old girls getting married in the US?! That's completely crazy. I can't understand polymagy, maybe unless women could have the right to have also more than one husband. The situation would be equal, but I still woudn't approve it. On the other hand, a friend of my mum, from Africa (I don't remember exatcly where, but it was a country from the south of the continent), has been in both a monogamous relationship and in a polygamous one. Curiously, she said that she liked better the polygamous one, since her husband from the monogamous relationship was very possessive and jealous. She still thinks that polygamy is unfair for women, but she doesn't understand the feelings of possession we have in our society. So I guess it is sometimes also a cultural thing. I still think Big Love is a great show!
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
i hate to be so pessimistic, but on 1700 acres no one is going to find that girl. now that all of this is stirred up, her only chance of getting out is if she already has gotten out on one of those buses. But then what is she going to do? Move to the city and get an apartment? You know if you take the women and children out, what other kind of life do they know? Some may have to choose between getting out and never seeing their families again. It's heartbreaking.
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