Friday, August 5, 2011

Warren Jeffs, Mental Health, PTSD

In what must have come as a surprise to very few, Warren Jeffs was convicted of raping two underage girls. He presumably himself raped or had a hand in arranging similar fates for many more than just two underaged girls. I can't relate to this at all on a personal level. All the adults significant in my life have been very protective of my sexuality, or lack of it, to the extent that there were discussions of parts of the trial I was not able to watch because someone thought it might be upsetting to me, despite the fact that at just over sixteen-and-a-half, I'm less than half a year away from being able to watch R-rated movies. Where were the vigilant people in these girls' (and boys'; being kicked out of one's home and even one's community as early as the age of thirteen is not exactly a walk in the park, either) lives, and now what's going to be done about it.

In addition to a situation I experienced which culminated in my having to crawl from the third floor of a smoky home in a semi-capacitated state at best, I had a single sexual encounter which was, thank God, interrrupted before it reached the point of either forced oral sex or forced intercourse. I underwent many months of relatively intense therapy because of this assault. While there was somewhat graphic violence in my encounter, it was ONE PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL ASSAULT and five days of neglected care in an entire lifetime of otherwise being protected from anything bad. What my situation supported was the hypothesis that a parents can do almost everything right for a kid's entire lifetime, yet one or two really traumatic events can enter the picture and render a young person frantically clinging to what little sanity she has left.

A study was conducted on this very topic when a busload of children and their bus driver from Chowchilla, California, was overtaken, and the children and driver transported in inhumane conditions to a remote underground location. The story had a happy ending when the children and their driver dug their way out of their underground tomb. Someone wanted to know if the PTSD from that single experience could undo a lifetime of normalcy and good parenting. The therapist, whose name was, I think, Lenore Terr, found in her study that, for the most part, one sufficiently devastating event in a child's life could override everything normal and predictable that had happened in those children's lifetimes. Terr concluded that yes, it could. Her conclusions came as a surprise to the mental health field at the time.

But if one icident can bring such devastation to a kid's life, what happens to a child whose entire life is what I would consider devastation. The FLDS employed waterboarding-like techniqes in order to teach babies not to cry and, perhaps more important, to fear their fathers from an such early age that they don't even remember why it is that they fear their fathers. Physical punishment that reached the legal definition of abuse was the norm in the fLDS culture. Children saw their sisters married off at ages where they should possibly have been anticipating attending a first school dance at most. The same children saw their brothers banished from the home and community at ages when they were far too young to be expected to fend for themsleves. Those children knew that, depending upon their gender, one fate or the other would be theirs eventually. Even if the children are rescued after the fact, and chances ar that not all will be, how do they rebound from this hellish life? Can even the ones who are reached be helped?

Just how far should theumbrella of fredom of religion extend to protect people and allow them to live in such a manner? Is there a way to allow the adults in groups such as the FLDS to live according to the dictates of their consciences without involving the children? I don't really see how?


  1. Religon is such a sensative topic, especially freedom of religon. I'm athiest with a budhist leaning, so I don't really get all riled up. Until it comes to those poor poor children. Just awful. Oddly enough a few months ago I read a few biographies of women who had escaped from this very thing. They broke my heart.

  2. Alexis, these are all very good questions.