USA – State of Texas – Raid of Polygamist Sect Compound – Forced & Underage Marriage – Abuse +
Author: Womens UN Report Network
Date: July 22, 2005
Photo from Guardian Article:
Women cult members rescued from the
Photograph: Tony Gutierrez/AP
April 10, 2008
Ed Pilkington in New York
Children Removed from Sect in Texas Tell of Girls Forced into Sex with
· 416 youngsters in state custody after
· Hunt goes on for teenager who alerted authorities
Interviews with hundreds of children removed from a polygamist sect in Texas
have revealed that several underage girls were forced into “spiritual
marriage” with much older men as soon as they reached puberty and were
then made pregnant, according to investigators.
A total of 416 children, mainly girls, have now been taken into state
custody after five days of raids on the Yearn for Zion ranch in Eldorado, west
Texas. Court documents reveal the children were removed for fear they were at
risk of “emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse”.
A further 139 women left the ranch voluntarily to accompany the girls, and
are being held with them. A local court has granted state custody of all the
children until a hearing later this month.
The 1,700-acre ranch is the retreat of a group from the Fundamentalist
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a 10,000-strong splinter sect that
broke with the main Mormon church when it denounced polygamy in the 1890s. The
compound was built in 2004 in a remote location in the prairies by Warren
Jeffs, the then “prophet” of the sect who is currently in jail in
Arizona awaiting trial over charges relating to the arranged marriages of three
teenage girls. He has already been sentenced to 10 years to life imprisonment
in the state of Utah.
The raids were sparked by a telephone call from a 16-year-old girl inside
the Yearn for Zion compound to a local family violence shelter on March 29. She
said she had been forced to become the seventh “spiritual wife” of a
man aged 50, who made her pregnant with a child, now aged eight months, and
then made her pregnant for a second time. The girl said other girls, some as
young as 13, had been forced to have sex with older men for procreation. She
said she had been beaten by her “husband” so badly that on one
occasion several of her ribs were broken. The beatings included hitting her on
the chest and choking her, the affidavit says, while another woman held her
The police are searching for the man, Dale Barlow. They are also continuing
to search for the girl, whose identity has not been released and who has yet to
be found among the 416 children taken into care.
The court papers give new details about the isolated life of the sect.
The compound is self-sufficient, in order to avoid contact with the
“outsiders’ world”. In addition to a temple, the ranch includes a
cement factory, a school, a cheese factory and medical centre. Women wear
home-sewn dresses and are not allowed to wear red, which Jeffs decreed was
reserved for Jesus, or cut their hair. They live on a diet of dairy produce,
vegetables, berries, nuts and honey.
Sect members were only allowed out of the compound for emergencies. The
16-year-old who sounded the alarm told the shelter that she had been warned
that if she left the ranch, “outsiders will hurt her, force her to cut her
hair, to wear makeup and to have sex with lots of men”, the documents say.
Several of the teenage girls were found to have children or are pregnant.
Many could not spell their last names or state their birth date.
The sect believes that polygamy for men is an essential religious practice.
Underage girls were married to older men of the church’s choosing, the
The leader of the ranch, Merrill Jessop, has called for a public outcry over
the raids, saying the “hauling off of women and children matches anything
in Russia or Germany”.
Lawyers for the church have filed a court petition to quash the searches on the
grounds they are unconstitutional as the authorities lack sufficient evidence
to justify the intrusion.
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