Dear 100 Hour Board,
So recently I somehow found the show 'Escaping Polygamy'. It deals with two main groups that practice polygamy. First, the Kingston Clan, which sounds terrifying because everything is called 'the order'? And then of course, the FLDS. I found this show very upsetting to watch, and yet I couldn't stop.
Basically I knew they practiced polygamy but I wasn't aware of the absolute brainwashing that has gone on. They aren't allowed to have technology normally, they marry cousins often, they're sent away from family to repent, they're not allowed contact with family if they manage to escape, etc. I know about Warren Jeffs thankfully being in prison, but honestly it seems like things got worse since he's been in prison. He still commands over the FLDS from prison and has made everything much more strict. Since he can't have sex, none of them can have sex. Since he can't have fun, none of them can have fun.
Anyways, let's get to my actual questions. How is this allowed? The practice of polygamy is illegal. Is it not illegal because maybe they don't get 'legally' married? So according to the United States, they're just people with multiple partners? I also feel like there is SO much proof that these people are brainwashed and being forced into child slavery (usually the men), and also being sexually assaulted. There have been quite a few (at least from my knowledge gained by this show) men put in prison for sexually assaulting a minor. Why are these groups not being investigated? Have they been investigated before? How is nothing being done about it? Is it because they aren't officially breaking any laws and so it's just being looked over? It might be a small population compared to the U.S. but it's just sickening to hear about.
Sorry for the bombardment of questions. I would appreciate any information and opinions on the topic.
-I think I'll stay single
Sorry for the late response. Goldie Rose did the bulk of the research for this question but has been quite busy being a new mother, so I helped her finish it. I actually know a few kids of polygamist families from high school, as well as kids from mothers who have escaped polygamy. So maybe I can add a little perspective on that. So I'm hopeful by our powers combined we can answer your questions. Board Question #2363 also has some good additional info if you're interested in that.
How is this allowed? The practice of polygamy is illegal. Is it not illegal because maybe they don't get 'legally' married?
You're correct, they only get married to their first wife. All of the other marriages are consider to only be spiritual marriages.
So according to the United States, they're just people with multiple partners?
Correct again! They're cohabiting, which is what a lot of people are doing nowadays. Goldie Rose saw some episodes where they provide housing for their newer wives and children. Sometimes the husband doesn't even visit their families or provides a really bad living situation for them. This depends a lot from group to group. The polygamists I know all lived together, and the kids at least seemed to really enjoy it.
Why are these groups not being investigated? Have they been investigated before?
They have been investigated. Here are 3 different articles about investigations specifically the Kingston Clan (one) (two) (three). Typically, the investigations don't focus on polygamy itself. Polygamy is hard to prove. So typically the investigations focus on other crimes.
One of the largest mass arrests in American history actually occurred during the Short Creek Raid of a polygamous town in 1953. Hundreds of polygamists were arrested and the children were taken into custody. This actually turned out to be a PR disaster due to the footage of children screaming as they were torn from the arms of their seemingly peaceful parents.
How is nothing being done about it?
The fact that the TV show Escaping Polygamy exists somewhat shows that something is being done about it. They're trying to increase awareness. There have also been several books written by women who have escaped polygamy. I also think it's likely that there are ongoing investigations that are not known to the public.
Is it because they aren't officially breaking any laws and so it's just being looked over?
One of the main problems is that the law officials in these towns are also part of the same group, so they have jurisdiction in the city. For larger law enforcement agencies to come in and investigate they need a lot more evidence for higher crimes. And that sort of evidence is hard to get when the community itself tries to keep that information hidden.
Overall, the power that the community exerts reaches far and deep. The community has its own individual bank so the women can't easily access their funds and escape. Polygamist communities are also typically geographically isolated so women can't just walk or run into the next town. There is pressure from relatives and friends, which can lead to a fear of what could happen to their friends and family if they leave. Throw in the terribly unbalanced power dynamic and social structure, along with brainwashing and religious ideology and you get a really hard situation to leave. This is a very complicated and deep-rooted problem. Solving it won't be easy, but we can hope that raising awareness, police investigations, and other efforts can work to eliminate some of these terrible problems.
Hope this helps