Carolyn Jessop is on a mission.
The 43-year-old mother of eight "escaped" from a polygamist compound eight years ago and is determined to open the public's eyes to the realities of a way of life that holds women powerless and children in peril.
"The crime is still happening, and children are still being hurt," she told a packed house at Missouri State University Tuesday night.
Jessop is the author of "Escape," which tells the story of her life in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and her escape from it, and "Triumph: Life After the Cult, a Survivor's Lessons."
After the petite, blonde woman with a quiet voice told the harrowing story of being forced at age 18 to become the fourth "wife" of a man of 50 and of ultimately escaping with her children, the crowd rose to their feet to applaud her.
"I thought it was phenomenal," said MSU senior Abby Barcomb of Springfield. Although Barcomb had been interested in the topic of polygamy and aware of some of the things Jessop reported, she said, "Everything was shocking."
Ethan Couch, a sophomore from Cassville, attended the talk as part of an assignment for his ethics class. He came away impressed. "(Polygamy) is not at all like I thought it would be," he said, admitting that his insights had only been from the television show "Sister Wives," a reality show focusing on one polygamist family. "It sounded horrible."
Jessop described a life that surpasses horrible in many ways. She came from six generations of FLDS polygamists, tracing her family back to the founder of the cult that broke away from the Mormon church in 1912.
She grew up knowing only a life that offered her no choices but to have children for the man the "prophet" of the group chose for her and face the possibility that those children could be taken from her at any moment.
"I was never allowed to experience anything else," she said. "The mind control is very severe."
Her own father had three wives and 38 children. She saw her brothers banished from the community when they were still teenagers -- a fate she estimates happens to about 80 percent of the boys born into the cult. Her father was later banished, too.