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Polygamist Child Abuser Warren Jeffs Sentenced to Life Plus 20 Years but Where is the Justice for Children Abused in the name of “Therapy”?

August 10, 2011

At long last, after decades of society turning a blind eye to the abuse that was occurring of underaged girls and boys in the polygamist FLDS cult in the name of “religion”, justice in the state of Texas has finally been served. After some of the most disgusting evidence ever produced in a court of law came out including audio tapes of the sexual abuse in question and irrefutable DNA evidence, 55-year-old pedophile Warren Jeffs was found Guilty of sexual assault of two underaged girls. More well-deserved prosecutions of others in the cult will follow. Some ex-members are now coming forward including one young man, Warren Jeff’s nephew, Brent Jeffs, who testified he was raped at the age of 5 by his uncle. Another ex-member who escaped as a teenager  has reported waterboarding of infants occurred in the cult. When they cried, to make them more docile and compliant, their little heads were held under water. Obviously, these infants and children are completely innocent victims but the adults, not so much.

And yes, I think all adults involved in this should be prosecuted, so-called “mind control” or “brainwashing” or not. The fact is that many ex-members who grew up in the cult have garnered the courage to escape and speak out. Those who stayed and participated need to be held accountable for what they stood by and allowed to happen. In contrast, Flora Jessop and the many other whistleblowers who grew up in the cult and yet chose to escape are recognized as heroes and applauded for their courage and public stance they have taken in exposing these abuses as well they should be.

The fact is that many people who grew up in cults do retain their freedom of choice enough to escape. Janet Reitman’s excellent, recently-published history of Scientology, Inside Scientology, also contains a number of examples that show that many do retain their ability to think things through well enough to decide to leave. Some of their escape plans of were quite brilliant and very carefully thought out. These young people who grew up in the cult and escaped, sometimes having to literally leap over walls to do it, are a testament to the human spirit and yes, dare I say it, free agency.

Their voluntary escapes call into question the stereotype of cult members as mindless “zombies” who do not think and just blindly obey. Clearly, people are deceived and subjected to undue influence and that can be a mitigating factor for some people and there is blind obedience in cults, but not all the time and not by everyone in the cult, even those who were deeply involved. The 1970s model of “mind control” still held by some that absolves people of responsibility for their actions is highly flawed in my opinion. These people should not have anything but a “cult personality” according to theories such as Steve Hassan’s, but they obviously do have personalities very separate from the group. Make no mistake, the children in these cults are completely innocent victims, but the adults, including those born and raised in the group once they come of age, are not completely innocent and must be held responsible in a court of law if they break the law. Although they are indeed victims, they have also become perpetrators or supporters of such when they stand by and allow it to continue.

The question that arises is, how is it that justice for this systematic sexual, physical and emotional abuse could have taken so long and so many children had to be quite possibly irreparably damaged for life, before something is done about it? Why did the authorities including social services, turn a blind eye for so long? Did religion have anything to do with it? While our Constitution does indeed guarantee freedom of religious belief, that is not license for people to break the law by abusing children. That is pedophilia, whether practiced by a religion or not.

Note that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is not the same as the mainstream LDS (the “Mormons”) who have forbidden polygamy since it was outlawed over 100 years ago and do not condone “marriages” of underaged girls to male child abusers in the name of religion.

There is a larger theme here and that is how society too often turns a blind eye to abuse that is occurring and this can take many forms far less exotic than cults. It makes me wonder how long it will take for people to stop turning a blind eye about the abuse that is occurring right under their noses and has in some cases been reported to state boards, of children in the name of “therapy”. And please note, before going any further, that contrary to recent misportrayals of my position, I am not saying these therapists should all be locked up, although in the case of Candace Newmaker’s therapists, Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder, their sentence was well deserved and in my opinion, Watkins should not have been released as soon as she was. As for the others, at  the very least, some form of disciplinary action and educational remediation should occur and they should be ordered to immediately cease such dangerous practices or lose their license. How many children will have to die or be damaged before this happens? Your guess is as good as mine.

Although this form of abuse is not sexual in nature, often techniques have been employed such as prone restraint that have been shown in some cases to cause death. Such deaths have been shown to occur, even when the procedure was done correctly. If anyone thinks I am exaggerating and how dare I compare them to Warren Jeffs, have a look at some of the video clips of actual sessions, such as those displayed on the Advocates for Children in Therapy website, which has exposed many of these abuses. While their abuse is not the same as Warren Jeffs’,  people can look at these videos and decide for themselves how abusive they are and how much pain and suffering is being inflicted. Some of these therapists have deservedly lost their license, but others have never even been disciplined even though complaints by child advocates have been filed, thus far, to no avail as one such therapist boasts. How can these practices be allowed to continue while whistleblowers pay the price?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to name names, but those who are turning a blind eye and/or penalizing whistleblowers because they are too afraid to have their names brought into smear campaigns know who they are. This is particularly hypocritical when social workers who are supposed to be activists for social justice, are involved. Apparently a clean Google search is more important to them than blowing the whistle on child abuse or at least taking a stand for the whistleblowers, while they rationalize not publicly supporting (e.g. “pick your battles”) or not hiring whistleblowers, perhaps using the excuse of not a “good fit” and passing them over for “safer” applicants who are the perfect fit because they win personality contests by making extra sure never to offend anyone, bring in money and do not make waves. I’m not saying this is true for every institution but it clearly is for certain ones who decline to hire people because of smear campaigns that come up on Google searches that contain obvious falsehoods. How sad for them, for the profession and for all of us.

Abuse, whether it be in the name of religion or in the name of “therapy” is still abuse. The fact that it is masked in something people trust makes the betrayal all the worse.

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One Comment
  1. Why does it take Law Enforcement so long to stop sexual deviants and perpetrators?

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