Texas FLDS Compound On Its One-Year Anniversary: The Lessons We Must Learn to Effectively Protect Children in the Future
By MARCI A. HAMILTON
Thursday, April 16, 2009
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the valiant attempts by Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) to save the child sexual-abuse victims in the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) group situated at the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch outside Eldorado, Texas. In this column, I’ll take stock of related events since then, and explain the lessons they teach. The authorities’ concerns were triggered by a call to a hotline, and confirmed when they entered the compound to discover a significant number of underage mothers – who were, plainly, victims of statutory rape — and clear evidence of bigamy involving underage persons, a first-degree felony in Texas. Not only did CPS have clear visual evidence of these crimes, but it also had written recordsshowing that girls had been married off to much older men, even after those men had taken other spouses, and some disturbing pictures, including one particularly disgusting one of their prophet, Warren Jeffs (who is now in jail on other charges), passionately kissing a 12-year-old girl who wassitting on his lap.
The promise of the YFZ raid to free oppressed children, though, was never fully realized. All of thechildren but one has been returned. As I discussed in a prior column, the Texas appellate courts bear much of the responsibility. They refused to back up CPS’s actions, because they discounted the claims that girls had been victims of statutory rape, if those girls were over the legal age of consent at the time of the raid. The courts’ reasoning was offensive to victims of statutory rape, and made a mockery of Texas criminal law. It was also just another moment when the interests of child sex- abuse victims were trivialized for no good reason. Continue reading