Warren Jeffs Gives 12-Year-Old Girl Wedding-Style Kiss

Have you seen the photo of the FLDS spiritual leader, 51-year-old Warren Jeffs, cradling in his arms and deeply kissing — and we’re talking about a “wedding”-type kiss here — a then twelve-year-old girl?

The photo was introduced on Friday in the custody case of an infant born two weeks ago to Louisa Bradshaw Jessop, and fathered by Dan Jessop, who is the brother of the girl Jeffs is passionately kissing. Maybe it was meant to jog the memory of the witness, Louisa, who responded, “I don’t know,” or “I can’t remember right now,” to nearly every question posed to her, including how long she’d been at the ranch and who lived in her household.

What did you think was happening in those big happy polygamous families? Anyone who’s ever left the cult has written about their main religious belief — The Principle of Plural Marriage — and the abuse that it engenders. It’s vitally important in the FLDS culture for a man to have at least a Quorum of wives (3 is the minimum) in order to enjoy the benefits of the heavenly kingdom; he really needs at least seven wives to be considered an important member of the priesthood and the community.

As for that kiss in the photo possibly being anything other than a wedding kiss? A man in FLDS can have physical contact with a female only if they are married. Period.

Judge Walther acknowledged that she’d been criticized for not allowing enough evidence to be let in during the initial hearing in April. With the Appellate Court’s decision hanging over her head, she has announced, “We’re going to have a full blown adversarial hearing. If it takes two to three days, we’re going to do it.”

I have a feeling this case is far from over yet.


Appealing to the Texas Supreme Court to Save the Children

The Department of Family and Protective Services appealed to the Texas Supreme Court today, bluntly stating that “this case is about adult men commanding sex from underage children; about adult women knowlingly condoning and allowing sexual abuse of underage children.” They asked the Supreme Court of Texas to intervene.

Their petition is nearly 27 pages long and is chock full of fascinating facts: how the mothers refused to identify themselves, and just exactly how many underage girls, pregnant or with babies, they had found. They could establish that girls as young as thirteen were pregnant, proving that men must have sexually abused them at least nine months before. Some FLDS members stated that when a girl begins her period, she is ready for marriage.

The Department’s petition to the Texas Supreme Court said that the appellate court improperly reviewed the evidence of the trial court. The appeals court’s role was simply to determine whether or not a lower court abused its discretion, not to look over the evidence and second-guess the lower court’s decision. The appeals court ruling was highly unusual in that it granted relief in a case that had not yet been decided.

Stay tuned for more developments early next week!


TX Appellate Court Says “No Dice” on Keeping the Kids – Politics on The Huffington Post

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas, ruled today that the grounds for seizing over 400 children and putting them in temporary custody with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services were “legally and factually insufficient” under Texas law. The higher court found that the Department had not, contrary to the requirements of the Code, presented enough evidence of danger to the physical health or safety of the children; especially not to any male children or any female children who had not reached puberty. This ruling only addresses the immediate custody of the children.

What will this mean? Likely, it will occasion the immediate return of the children to their parents. The State of Texas may, nevertheless, continue to pursue the sect for creating unsafe conditions for children, or, for that matter, for polygamy. They may also petition the highest court in Texas to review the decision of the Appellate Court.

As the media continues to carry news on this topic, I hope that both sides of the case will be fairly presented. Willie Jessop, a church elder, and Rod Parker, attorney for the FLDS, have driven the media with their point of view. I’d like to defend the Texas authorities in one problem they have faced in this situation.

Child Protective Services had to revise down the number of underage pregnant girls and underage mothers, finding far fewer than originally claimed. Contrary to FLDS claims of “lying and cheating” by the Department, it was very difficult for Child Protective Services to get a correct count. Initially, the women refused to identify themselves or their children; the women don’t have driver’s licenses; the children call several women “mother”; and the women look much younger than their actual years, most likely a result of diet. After the DNA testing, the mothers became more forthright about the facts, which allowed the department to determine accurate ages.

We are still left with the question why any parent would willingly keep their child in a household where girls are at risk of a forced marriage to some old codger before the age of 16.

In the long run, perhaps young girls (and boys) will be safer in FLDS compounds everywhere in the U.S. now that it is clear that sexual abuse of young girls won’t be tolerated by the State. At least, as an attorney and sexual abuse expert, I hope so.


From San Angelo Texas

From San Angelo, Texas

Five judges, five separate courtrooms, hundreds of hearings. Beginning today, and lasting for the next three weeks,San Angelo, Texas, is host to the largest custody case in history. What’s at stake? The future of 463 children taken by Texas authorities from the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) group ranch and placed in foster care. I flew in late last night on a small 50-seater jet that was more than half-filled by media from every national TV station and news outlet. Hotel rooms are at a premium.

When I pulled up in front of the courthouse this morning, it was 100 degrees outside, frosty cold in the overly air-conditioned courthouse. But the heat was on for the 168 mothers and 69 fathers of these children. The sole purpose of the hearings is to review the “family service plan” from Child Protective Services for each child. Is it specific enough so the parents know what they have to do in order to regain custody?

Six-year-old Samuel Jeffs was the subject of the first hearing I attended. It was being tried in the courtroom of State District Judge Barbara Walther. She’s very bright, engaging, clear speaking, and much to the dismay of some of the attorneys for the parents who attempted to sidetrack the proceedings, she doesn’t put up with any bull.

Little Samuel is the son of 34-year-old Sharon Barlow, a petite, almost child-like looking woman, and sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is currently in jail. Jeffs was convicted in Utah of being an accomplice to rape in the marriage of a 14-year-old to her 19-year-old first cousin (the 14-year-old was Elissa Wall, who has just published a book called Stolen Innocence about growing up in the cult). And little Samuel, one of 10 children in state custody who are believed to be the children of Jeffs, has a birth defect that requires a prosthetic leg. Barlow only has this one child, possibly a result of the FLDS belief that birth defects (as well as all disease) indicate wrongdoing. Samuel is being fitted for a new prosthesis by the state of Texas, and set up with a course in physical therapy.

The attorney for the boy’s mother objected to the CPS plan for her to get the boy back, saying it wasn’t clear enough. According to the plan, Barlow must take parenting classes, find a safe living environment, and undergo a psychological


One mother, Barbara Jessop, whose son Sampson was fathered by Merrill Jessop (the husband of Carolyn Jessop, who left the cult and wrote the book, Escape), wouldn’t speak to the court at all because of a pending criminal investigation.

She didn’t want to acknowledge that she had even read the plan, clearly worried that anything she said could be used as evidence against her. Some parents did not object to the plan they were presented with. Cynthia Joy Jessop,

with an infant she was allowed to keep at home, and Richard Samuel Jessop have six children together, and they are trying to get their three older boys together into one foster home in San Antonio. Unlike the others I saw, these parents made eye contact with each other and with the court. They felt they could do the plan.

It’s true the plans are somewhat similar, for good reason. They all involve training in parenting, psychological evaluation, vocational evaluation of the parents, and housing. From there, the “cookie cutter” aspects disappear. As the weeks go on, the plans will become more and more individualized. As the parents implement the services named in the plans, the experts report back and the plan can change.

Some parents claimed surprise at the proceedings, although they’ve had sufficient notice about the public hearings. How could they be surprised by anything? These are members of a cult known for its capricious and arbitrary events. A man can be told to leave his wife and kids and go to another town to “repent,” while his wife is “reassigned” to marry another man, who has to be seen by her kids as their new father.

If a boy shows any indication of wanting to think for himself, he is dumped outside of town by his parents and becomes a non-person, unable to contact his family. Out of the 463 children, 250 are girls and 213 are boys, but there are only 17 boys aged 14 to 17 compared with the 53 girls in that age range. A young teen girl can be told at any time that she will now be married to a man, possibly many times older, who can be a total stranger. More than half the 53 teen girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have children or are pregnant, state officials said. As a spokesman for Child Protective Services said, “It shows you a pretty distinct pattern, that it was pretty pervasive.”

It’s hard to imagine what will happen with these children. Even freed from the possibility of being dumped on the street or married off too young, how will they be freed from the fear of the “outside” world? Fear of the good people of Texas who are trying their best to help them?

With much time, and much kindness.



Is Miley Cyrus following in the footsteps of Britney, Paris, and Vanessa Hudgins by posing for provocative photos that circulated on the Internet last week, as well as those from a suggestive Vanity Fair photo shoot in which she’s wrapped in a satin sheet and appears to be nude?

To our tweens and teenagers, it must seem like this kind of behavior is a winner. Kids know it’s unlikely that the photo shoot, especially by someone as stellar as Annie Leibovitz,will throw a monkey wrench in Miley’s career. After all, hardly anyone had ever heard of Paris Hilton before her sex tape, and Britney’s posing without her panties hasn’t hurt her either. The truth is, and kids know it, release of these photos may actually throw her career into overdrive. Miley has apologized and said she’s “embarrassed” about the whole affair.

Miley’s embarrassment and apology offer parents a great opportunity to discuss with their kids the pros and cons of posting photos to social network sites. The Vanity Fair photos are actually tame compared to what some girls post without their parents knowledge. I recently had a workshop participant whose 11-year-old daughter had herself videoed in a bra, draped over a sports car, and posted it to her MySpace page. While kids are savvier about technology than their parents, they aren’t emotionally mature yet and don’t have a clue about the consequences: they don’t realize that a photo can come back to haunt them when they’re trying to get a job or applying for college, or worse, being stalked by an online predator.

I urge parents to treat their children responsibly, rather than handing down a decree. Use Miley’s experience to open a discussion about what’s a good idea long-term, about privacy, about the risk of online predators. Ask your teen to consider “could this be bad news for me later?” Start a conversation with your teen rather than trying to police them.

Just as with alcohol and drugs, parents need to load up their kids with ammunition to understand that when they communicate on sites like MySpace and FaceBook, they are communicating to the world.

We all instinctively know the difference between a photo that sends a message of youthful life and vitality vs. photos that sexualize a child, as does the Vanity Fair shot. I would certainly question the photographer’s judgment; posing a 15 year old in a sheet is going to send a sexual message that conflicts with the squeaky clean image more appropriate to her age. When People magazine did a survey, 77% thought the photos were inappropriate for a girl her age. In our country, where recent statistics demonstrate that sexual abuse of girls is approaching 60% and boys 45%, it would seem smart to err on the side of caution and encourage our kids be kids as long as possible.




May 5, 2008

The popular sleeping pill Ambien is a sedative and a hypnotic, causing relaxation and sleep. It affects chemicals in the brain that have become unbalanced, which results in insomnia. So Ambien sounds like a good solution, but how many people actually read all the little print that contains the warnings?

Ambien is not a good choice of sleep aid for anyone who drinks alcohol or has a history of addiction problems, even to cigarettes, because it’s so seriously addictive. It can become addictive in a very short time, even less than 10 days, and withdrawal symptoms, including rebound insomnia, can occur—the very thing you were trying to address in the first place.

It is frequently found in cases of driving under the influence, indicating abuse. It is also abused recreationally by those who force themselves to stay awake to experience vivid visuals and a mild euphoria and light-based hallucinations. Once a tolerance to the drug is reached, the sedation effect decreases and the euphoric side effects remain, along with increasing anxiety.

If mixed with alcohol or marijuana, the effects of Ambien effects are intensified. Nor is it a good choice if you’re dealing with depression. I urge people to try safer alternatives for sleep, like St. John’s wort, kava kava, or valerian, but not if you’re using Ambien, which reacts adversely with these popular sleep preparations as well as with many antidepressants and even with caffeine.

If we’re having trouble sleeping, it’s often because we’ve lost our connection to Mother Earth – so easy to do today in our fast-paced world of computers, artificial lighting, and freeway living. Before asking for a prescription, try getting more fresh air and sunshine (20 minutes a day of sun is a natural sleep aid) and exercise every day for a week to reconnect your body the natural world. Also consider drinking no caffeine after early morning, turning off the TV an hour before bedtime, and having the same sleep time every night. Nine times out of ten, this will address insomnia; if not, see a sleep expert. Menopause can also cause insomnia; if that’s the situation, see someone who can deal with the symptoms of menopause.