Sunday, January 18, 2009

Stolen Innocence - Book Review

Stolen Innocence
By Elissa Walls
Harper Collins 2008

Elissa Walls is a young American girl born in Utah, USA. Her parents were members of the FLDS - the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day saints. AKA the Mormons. These fundamentalists beleived in Polygamy. Polygamy had been outlawed from Utah in order for Utah to achieve statehood. The Fundamentalists disagreed.

Elissa was born to Douglas and Sharon Wall. Douglas had 2 wives at the time Elissa was born. Elissa's mother had 14 children. Elissa was number 11 of the 14. Douglas had 24 children by three wives altogether.

Almost all of Elissa's full siblings are now out of the FLDS church. The two youngest of Sharons daughters as well as Sharon herself are still in the church as far as is known. Elissa has not seen her mother or her sisters for several years.

Because of the polygamy beliefs that one man might have several wives, there was a shortage of women to men, so a large number of the teenage boys and young men were driven out, told that they were apostates and prevented from ever returning to their familes again. There was no concern for these boys. No concern for how they might survive outside of the church. This was done in order for there to be more women for the men. Women were seen as property. Women in the church do not have any rights. All decisions are made by the men, and the prophet - the leader of the church.

In the 1990's when Elissa was growing up, the Prophet's name was Rulon Jeffs. As Elissa grew up, one of her older sisters, Kassandra, was married to Rulon Jeffs and became just one of a long line of wives. Rulon's son Warren appointed himself as his fathers successor. Warren began controlling the wives more and more, telling them what to do, what to wear, what to say and how to behave. In 2000 Rulon had a stroke. He died in 2002. Warren immediately made plans to marry his fathers wives himself. Thats when Kassandra Wall, Elissa's older sister, left the community because she did not want to be married to Warren.

Elissa grew up wondering why her beliefs did not feel right. As she grew up her older siblings slowly began to leave. Her brothers were forced to leave and were called apostates. Her sisters were married off to older man.

In the year 2000 when Elissa was almost 15, and living in St George (southwest Utah) she was forceably taken by Warren Jeffs to Nevada and married there to her first cousin, Allen Steed. Allen's father was Sharon Wall's brother. Allen was 5 years older than Elissa. Utah law does not permit first cousins to get married. Utah law also says that 14 is still underage for marriage. This is why they were married in Nevada.

Elissa knew nothing about sex, nothing about babies. All she knew was the moms have babies and they popped out somehow. She had no teaching on sex, on giving birth or on how to have a relationship with a boy who was not her brother. In Fact FLDS children are raised to think of the opposite sex (outside of the immediate family) as snakes. Girls were taught to keep the bars up. (keep pure and modest and proper and virgin and keep their hands off the boys and vice versa). But the day they were mrried, the girl was expected to lower her bars and allow their spouse to touch them in their private parts. They must accept this touching with love and happiness and with NO fighting.

This was obviously unrealistic but nevertheless when Elissa was married at age 14, she was forced to endure Allen's lovemaking. She fought him every second of the way. She had never liked him before they were married. Elissa endured 4 miscarriages over the next three years, with NO medical help. The first time it happened, she thought she was dying. She thought she was being punished. She never told Allen about these pregnancies as she would have either been beaten or been forced to leave the community and survive on her own.

At the time of the 4th miscarriage, Elissa had been married for 3 years. By this time she had taken to staying out all night and sleeping in her truck just to get away from Allen. When she went into labour and was suffering her 4th miscarriage, Elisaa drove into the desert. There she was discovered by a young man.

This young man was also raised in the FLDS but in a different community. He had just been driven out and was now looking for a new home and a job.

He helped Elissa to recover and eventually of course they fell in love. Elissa discovered why she was having miscarriages, she had Rh- blood which did not mesh with the Rh+ blood of the babies.

After Elisa's first child with this young man, was successfully born, Elissa filed a lawsuit against Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. Allen and many of Elissa's childhood friends testified on Warren's behalf. Elissa's older sisters testified on her behalf. Elissa won her case and Warren Jeffs was jailed for being an accomplice to rape against a minor.

This was an excellent book. Thoroughly enjoyable. Some details may be very personal and private, but once you get past those, you will enjoy this book.

Here is another review.

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