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Texas Polygamy Bust

April 7, 2008

Update I: Since I originally posted this article – the actual numbers have changed – More than 400 children have been taken into custody (mostly girls) and about 130 women have left “of their own volition along with the children” according to ap.

Update II: Apparently many of the women have been born into this situation:

They “were born into this,” said Jessop, 40. “They have no concept of mainstream society, and their mothers were born into and have no concept of mainstream culture. Their grandmothers were born into it.”

and further complicating the issue of the children:

Meisner said each child will get an advocate and an attorney but predicted that if they end up permanently separated from their families, the sheltered children would have a tough acclimation to modern life.

220 women and children were moved Sunday from 1,700 acre Eldorado polygamist compound to a historic fort/museum in San Angelo, Texas.  The investigation, now in it’s fourth day was prompted by a phone call to authorities by a 16 year old girl who had stated that 50 year old Dale Barlow had married her and that she had given birth to a baby at the age of 15.  According to Texas law, a girl under the age of 16 may not marry with or without parental consent. One arrest has been made today but that arrest, according to Associated Press, was not of Dale Barlow and authorities are still not sure if the girl was one of those taken out of the compound.

The compound was built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs who now sits in jail:

Jeffs is jailed in Kingman, Ariz., where he awaits trial for four counts each of incest and sexual conduct with a minor stemming from two arranged marriages between teenage girls and their older male relatives.

In November, he was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison in Utah for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who wed her cousin in an arranged marriage in 2001. source

Apparently, it has been through victims of abuse of these individuals that have lead to the investigation and arrests of these individuals.  Barlow, as well, had allready been sentenced to jail last year after pleading no contest to commit sexual acts with a minor.  Sexual abuse in the case of Jeffs, has not only been with girls but with boys as well.

However, this concerns me:

“So far, only 18 children have been legally put in state custody, but Meisner said more court action was likely Monday. Brown said with a backlog of cases in the Texas foster care system, placing all the children will be difficult.” source

I realize that the safety of the children is of the utmost importance but both the women and children are right now outside of the compound in a safe place.  As much as the seclusion of these children has had a pychological impact on the children, can’t the same can be said for the mothers?  If we are seeing girls comming forward and reporting these cases of abuse .. how are we to know that these mothers were content with the situation that they were in?  Shouldn’t authorities be working with the mothers and their children for a little more than 2 or 3 days to determine whether a child should be put in state custody?

I had once heard from a police officer that children taken into state custody had a 98% chance of being physically abused .. although I’m having a hard time finding stats .. some links would be appreciated .. prove me wrong and put my mind at ease, please!  I grew up near an organization that took in wards of the state and juvenile delinquents and I’ll never forget seeing the bruises on these children, listening to how their guidance cousellor had taken them by the hair and thrown them down the stairs, just punched them in the face (and these were the very few that they let into the public school system others went to the organizations educational facilities) .. some taken from abusive situations and put in a state funded one.

Shouldn’t the goal here be to rehabilitate both the mothers and the children from the abuse that they have suffered and to give the child every opportunity to grow up in a healthy situation?



6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2008 10:11 pm

    It looks like the AP has updated their post, Samaha.

    From the link you provide:

    SAN ANGELO, Texas – Authorities say more than 400 children have been taken from a polygamist compound and placed in state custody as they continue to investigate whether one of them had been an underage bride.

  2. April 8, 2008 5:03 pm

    Thanks Konservo – I’ve updated the post with additional information.

  3. lonestar permalink
    April 16, 2008 2:26 am

    I understand your concerns with the state wanting to terminate parent-child relationships. Not only is the parent-child relationship a deeply cherished human value, but becoming state wards is far from the rescue operation people had in mind.

    However, this is a very troublesome situation. There are both civil and criminal dimensions to this tragic unfolding of events. The parents, aside from being deemed unfit, will also probably be charged with serious criminal offenses. Bigamy, sexual abuse, and endangering a child are just some of the felonies that come to mind. It seems like the state has a problem with the mothers staying with the children because as of now, the mothers would be in violation of endangering their children by having stayed on that ranch and not reporting the abuses. Yet at the same time their children are so vulnerable and must be going through so many damaging emotions, that from a policy stand point the removal of their mothers really is hard to swallow. As of now, most are still with their mothers living on a base.

    This is a notorious case indeed. Just the size and the breadth of the case is very problematic. To add to this, the sect apparently is very well-funded and so we’re expecting a long fight. How these hundreds of cases will be tried and what the fate of the children will be is keeping the legal community here on the edge of their seats. Already hundreds of volunteer attorneys are heading down to San Agenlo to see the outcome.
    But one thing everyone is agreed on – thank God law enforcement finally took action. There are many places in this country where these horrible abuses are still carried out.

  4. April 16, 2008 7:06 pm


    I understand that the state has a problem with the mothers staying with their children at the compound and endangering their children. However, it seems that many of these mothers were born into this situation themselves and I have to still ask whether the abuse they suffered and the propoganda that they were recieving from the men and leaders kept them from leaving .. made them feel as though they were protecting their children by staying .. that to leave had worse consequences.

    Such a tactic may set a presedence for children that are in abusive situations and that is fine when the mother has access to media and the laws of the state as to the consequences that her child may end up as a state ward but in the case of such sects, where the woman are born into such a way of life, where the community may not have access to the outside world through media it seems as though this is a punishment for a situation that was beyond the control of the mother.

    Otherwise, yes, thank god someone finally took action – nobody should have to live under these circumstances. Hopefully, the state will do right by not only the children but by all of the victims.

  5. April 21, 2008 7:11 am

    I agree Samaha, that the mother’s born into the compound cannot really be held responsible for allowing these things to happen, when they had been conditioned to think that it is normal. I am not in America but I do think that all efforts should be on rehabilitating the mothers with their children.

  6. puta permalink
    January 5, 2010 3:20 am

    OMG Mormons are so gross and they supported anti gay marriage laws while practicing Polygamy????? WTF the church should be exiled (or burned)

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