TLC (formerly called The Learning Channel) has a new series that I thought from the ads was about the Amish. (Amish youth also have a show) This new show is called Breaking the Faith, and it's about escapees/former members of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) polygamous Mormon offshoot cult. You probably remember Warren Jeffs, the cult leader (the "prophet") who is in prison for his role in adult-child marriages, a.k.a. rape., and his own sexual abuse of girls.
|The young men who are helping the women|
Four boys/young men (ages 18-20) who are already on the outside break out four girls/young women (ages 18-22) who have gotten word to them that they want out of their religious prison.
These kids reveal an astonishing alternate reality that has been constructed by the cult. The "prophet" is the top guy. There is also a "bishop" and a group of brownshirt types nicknamed the "God Squad". People on the outside are called "gentiles" and there is an inner circle called the "United Order." Their compound is called "The Crick."
On the upside, they do love their families, and the families can be quite large. Good men are rewarded with additional wives, so family size is symbolic and variable (unlike the muslim rule limiting men to four wives). One of the young men has nine mothers and 19 siblings. Another of the men has 62 siblings. One of the girls comes from a highly-placed family that included 32 mothers and 302 siblings! Two siblings in the show have only one mother because their dad just didn't cut the mustard. Still, there were twelve children in the family, so they were never lonely.
Despite a tightly controlled environment, each realized that there was something wrong in their Paradise, inspiring them to escape. In some instances, they left behind a sibling who also wanted out, and their regret about this is palpable.
Of course, their limited experiences didn't prepare them for what they would find on the outside. Although they came to see their leader and lifestyle as flawed, most of their beliefs are so entrenched that they experience intense fear and guilt almost immediately. Apparently later episodes show them having fun, but the first episode gives you a glimpse into what is much more than culture shock. They knew there was something wrong with their cult lifestyle, but they had no idea how much of their lives was based on lies, and they are genuinely dismayed as they try to sort it out.
"Deprogramming" is the term for bringing people out of a cult environment, but for people who grew up in it, it's much more than that. It's a total re-education. I hate to use that word because of the obvious Communist link, but it's the only word that comes to mind. They have to learn everything about the world from the ground-up because almost everything they've been told is a lie.
Add to this the sexual abuse and other forms of abuse they are recovering from, and I give these people kudos for being willing to heal themselves and help others.
I have not even scratched the surface of the drama and turmoil of this episode. I watched it before going to bed and I couldn't sleep. Many of the more disturbing details kept me awake and they still haunt me. The mathematics of polygamy means that boys are mere flotsam to a polygamous cult, and the girls are possessions with no rights of their own.
I hope that more children escape this destructive and vile situation.