By Stacy Damitio
With a warm smile and determined eyes, Flora Jessop’s gaze sweeps over the audience who have gathered to see her in the Student Union on April 25.
Jessop has come to tell her story—a story of grace, disappointments and triumphs.
“She is a little gal, but she has the power of a freight train going 100 miles an hour. She never stops. She is a real heroine,” said Chris Monaco, Glendale Community College child development teacher, as she introduced Jessop.
Jessop spoke about her escape from the abusive confines of the Fundamentalists Church of Jesus Chris of Latter Day Saints in 1986.
Jessop describes in shocking details for the audience the atrocities that she saw take place in Colorado City, Arizona, just a 12-hour drive from Glendale.
“You are trained to do and act exactly as you are told,” Flora said. “You don’t think without direction.”
Jessop’s story has received national media coverage. She has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and has worked with Mike Watkiss from News Channel 12. She was recently interviewed by Katie Couric in New York; that segment is set to air soon.
Jessop’s dad was married to her mom and her mom’s sister, she has 27 siblings.
Jessop spoke of the physical confrontations the sister wives are involved in while fighting to simply deliver a meal to their husband; sometimes the women are injured and cannot get out of bed.
She says the women are constantly in competition with one another vying, for the affection of their husband, leaving the children vulnerable.
She confirms speculation about fathers sexually molesting their young daughters, at times resulting in pregnancy.
The audience looked on in astonishment as she tells them these women and children essentially have no protection under the law. Flora says the Colorado Marshalls Office is in cahoots with FLDS. Those reports have been denied by them, yet confirmed by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department.
“They do not adhere to man’s law, they adhere to God’s law,” Flora said.
The FLDS requires their members to sit quiet and still during the three-hour church sermons. Jessop says the babies have learned from birth not to cry.
“A crying baby is offensive, so they will repeatedly slap their faces when they cry, or they will hold their faces under water, essentially waterboarding them. I don’t think I have ever met anyone out of the FLDS who isn’t terrified of water on their face. I don’t know of anybody from there who can dive into a pool.” Flora said.
“I don’t know of any other community in the world where 50 percent of more deaths every year are children,” Flora said.
Jessop said according to the census data from Colorado City, the healthiest age of their citizenry is the lowest in the world at 13, while in Sub Sarah Africa, is at 18.
Jessop questioned those who are seeking to legalize polygamy with promises of the children having more fulfilled lives due to there being more parental figures in the home.
“People need to understand, that if you decriminalize polygamy and make it an alternative lifestyle everything in the family law court system will be done away with and re-written,” Flora said.
The girls are married off in arranged marriages while they are in their teens. Sometimes they are married to a relative. The boys are in direct competition by the age of 12 with all other men in the community. If men outnumber the women, the boys are kicked out with no place to go leaving them homeless with no money, skills or real world knowledge.
Cloaked under the cover of darkness, Jessop has rescued 138 women and children from Colorado City.
She said most are not educated past a third grade level. “They keep the education at that level because you cannot suppress and educated people,” said Flora.
They were taught bodies are vile and are not to be touched or looked at. They were not permitted the use of soap, leaving them somewhat lacking in the area of personal hygiene.
Jessop has been instrumental in transforming the lives of those she helps.
“If you can find anything, any reason to laugh through the trauma, you immediately get a stranglehold of the trauma that way,” Flora said.
Flora teaches everyone she comes into contact with to, “Be their own hero.” Giving them the strength to fight for themselves.
One of the biggest triumphs for Flora was rescuing her youngest sister Ruby and her six children. Ruby was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 14 to a relative.
After 12 years of attempting to help Ruby escape, she was successful. Ruby escaped under the veil of darkness in December and was able to get her children in January.
“I am not scared of her anymore,” Ruby said as she spoke to the audience about her experiences. Flora and Ruby say the entire church teaches everyone in the community Flora is evil and wicked, scaring anyone who dare go to her for help.
“I was really curious, something just led me here today,” said Joy Moncrieff GCC student. “I see her as a legal advocate.”
Flora and Ruby’s story is unique and inspiring. If students wish to know more about them Flora has written a book called “Church of Lies,” available at all bookstores and online.
By Stacy Damitio