In summarizing their research, University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora and law graduate Julia Chamberlin wrote that polygamy is a "concrete crime with clear consequences for those forced to participate in it."
Their article, titled "Polygamy: Not 'Big Love' but significant harm," was recently published in Rutgers University's law journal Women's Rights Law Reporter.
The paper focuses on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamous sect controlled by imprisoned prophet Warren Jeffs, and identifies three harms inherent to the FLDS culture: child brides, lost boys and polygamy itself.
"Often FLDS members exact the three distinct harms through verbal, sexual, or physical abuse," the paper reads. "In addition to causing harm to members, all three distinct harms directly violate the law, yet leaders practice all three with impunity on a regular basis in accordance with FLDS beliefs, Jeffsa instructions, and the imposition of the instructions by enforcers."
Through "extensive" interviews with former FLDS members, the research concludes that parents fail to protect their children as they carry out orders given by Jeffs and other church leaders.
Since 2011, Jeffs, 58, has been serving a life sentence in Texas on a two-count conviction of sexually assaulting two underage girls. The research paper claims that edicts handed down from the jailed leader led to women being raped and children taken from their parents.
The authors write that revelations from Jeffs in 2012 resulted in "the removal of 8-year-old girls from their parentsa home in order to prepare them for their future role as a sister wife, the transfer of newborn babies to new caretakers who subsequently rename them in order to erase their self-identity, and only fifteen aworthya men were permitted to impregnate women in the FLDS community (the womanas husband and others forcibly hold down his wife as one of the fifteen men rapes her)."
Former polygamous wife Kristyn Decker is the author of "Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies." She closely follows the happenings inside the FLDS community and says she has also heard first-hand accounts of a small group of men being charged with fathering all children.
"The marriages were annulled, they were no longer to have relationships with their husbands," Decker said. "Therefore, if they wanted to get pregnant, they had to go to and ask one of 15 men."
Decker was raised inside the Apostolic United Brethren polygamy group as one of 23 children of the groupas leader, Owen Allred. She married at age 17 and raised her seven children inside a plural marriage.
After leaving polygamy in 2002 at age 50, Decker has worked to warn against the abuses she experienced in polygamy. She thinks this new academic research serves as a counterbalance to reality shows that glamorize polygamy.
"I look at polygamy as a modern-day slavery," she said. "It's about the man and what he wants and pleasing him so that he can get his kingdom so he can have his desires."
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