Sect women as victims?

By now everyone has heard of the polygamist ranch in Texas that was recently raided on suspicion of child abuse. Young teenage girls were reportedly forced into marriages with older men. This, under U.S. law, is considered child abuse.
What is interesting to me is the role of the mothers. I can’t say I know much about how “normal” child abuse cases are handled, but it seems logical to me that in at least some of those cases, mothers of young women who knowingly place thier children in situations where they will be abused could be charged, at the very least, with child endangerment. In a case such as this, could the mothers of these young teen girls be charged with something similar for allowing thier “marriage” to these older men?
It seems to me that the mothers are bieng treated, at least by the media, as victims. Victims of sexual monsters, but also victims of brainwashing. Does this remove their guilt? Can someone avoid being charged for a crime on the grounds that they have been brainwashed?

I really don’t know what to make of this. My intercultural training tells me that women who freely choose to belong to a particular religion and who have the right to raise thier children in that religion should be respected. These women weren’t hogtied and put on men’s shoulders and carried into this compound. They walked in, on thier own two feet, under orders from their own mind. They believed that this religion, and this compound, were the right way to live.

My religious training tells me that the religion they belong to is dead wrong. So for that reason, I applaud the authorities for bringing these abuses to light, so that hopefully people who may have been considering this religion will think twice.

These statements are all dependent on whether or not abuses really occurred- I firmly believe that people are “innocent until proven guilty”. Here is an article that describes the women’s viewpoints.


5 Responses

  1. I don’t know how “free” the mothers were. I think most of them were born into the sect, and had been effectively “brainwashed” from birth. Just to add an additional layer of complexity to the situation…

  2. In general, I am suspicious of the government interfering with religious practice and child-rearing (especially when they don’t yet have the proof), but the psychological and physical abuse that has been alleged is serious and law exists to prevent kooks like this from running roughshod over the souls of innocent children if indeed the alleged crimes have occurred. Religious freedom, like all other freedoms, can be abused and it seems as if it was abused strongly in this case.

  3. Tiffany, you’re absolutely right about most of the women being born into the cult. I apologize for my lack of research. Even so, we see in any belief system people who more or less spontaneously doubt what they’ve been taught- what happened to these people in this cult? Or perhaps I dont fully understand just how brainwashing works. I guess my question still remains, though- brainwashed or not, should the mothers be charged as accomplices in child abuse?

  4. Before we start stereotyping all these mothers as sexual predetors who need to be locked up why don’t we get the facts first. Nobody has yet given the number of underage married girls and asked if they truely were forced into marriage. My suspicion is that most these mothers willing got married at a legal age and just wanting to get away from an amoral society and raise their children in peace. If anyone thinks its a good idea to strip these children from there natural mothers and throw the mothers is jail is wrong. You are punishing the victem. If anyone need to be persecuted it is the men who mary underage girls. (That means lock up ALL men/boys who have concentual sex with girls under 16)

  5. They’ve violated a lot of rights with only the sort of probable cause needed for Nancy Grace, not the probable cause needed for the law. When you get a complaint about abuse in any other state you send out a social worker to that specific house to ask questions, you dont send an army of cops to storm the whole area and arbitrarily split up families. I think that the inherant uncomfortableness with polygamy and mormans is really the driving force here. Fox and MSNBC love the story for those reasons, and dont really do a good job at questioning the “live and let live” philosophy that “freedom of religion” embodies. That being said if there’s abuse there should be an arrest, but only at the end of a real investigation. This is no less a “fishing expedition” (government action in the hopes of finding something, not with actual probable cause) than when cops in Baltimore City see one drug deal on one porch and end up arresting everyone in the whole block as a “shakedown”, or when the Federal Government selects you for an audit, or when your overseas call was wiretapped. This story makes me angry.

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