I informed you last week, after that relatively light chapter of Escape, that we’d be right back into the horror show. People, it’s bad. You might want to grab a mouth guard, because you’re going to be spitting nails and gnashing your teeth to nubs.
Content notice for emotional abuse, creepy old men, stalking, spiritual abuse, and coerced marriage.
We’re plunged eyebrow-deep in awful right from the first paragraph, when we learn that a creep in his fifties has been stalking Carolyn’s seventeen year-old sister, Linda. He reports to her father things he disapproves of: Linda’s skirt’s too short one day, her heels too high another, and why did she comb her hair differently today?
The girls’ mother, Nurylon, is incensed enough to tell her husband “that she didn’t trust this man.” This does zero good:
This was highly out of order, and my father ignored her. A woman had no right to speak out like this, even if the goal was protecting her daughter. Linda and I could both see that even when Mother wanted to protect us she had no power to do so.
Women can’t speak out. Women can’t protect their children. Women have no power. Women can’t even appeal to their husbands to get rid of their daughter’s stalker. This culture is beyond sickening.
It gets worse: the stalker is a powerful man who’s probably aiming to marry Linda. And once the prophet sez, “Make her Wife no. 5, by all means!” Nurylon will go right along with the scheme. Linda will have no power to refuse, and no one to protect her from being bound to and regularly raped by a creepy old man old enough to be her grandfather. She knows her only chance is to flee the instant she turns 18.
Linda’s got a friend, Claudel, who isn’t at all thrilled at the prospect of being married to her stepfather and thus becoming her mother’s permanent slave. That’s right: in FLDS culture, it’s perfectly kosher to raise your future wife as a daughter first. Claudel is understandably reluctant to accede to this particular arrangement. So the girls lay their plans to escape after they become legal adults. Claudel knows someone in Salt Lake City who’s not FLDS, who can help them flee.
People, if you ever happen to run into an FLDS girl, be her friend. Be that person she can call when she needs to flee. Be that outsider who will help her safely navigate an alien culture, so that she never has to return to these assholes. And please, if you encounter an FLDS boy, do the same. Help him break the cycle, make it on the outside, and become a decent human being who knows how to treat women like equals rather than property.
Linda keeps her mouth shut about her plans. She keeps that secret so close that Carolyn has no idea what’s going on. She doesn’t even catch on when Linda gives her hope chest to a friend who’s staying behind. The items in those hope chests are treasured and take years to collect. Linda giving hers casually away should’ve been a major red flag. But the idea that her sister would leave never crosses Carolyn’s mind. It’s unthinkable. We shall soon see why.
Carolyn’s getting ready for bed when Linda comes to say goodbye and borrow some money. She tells Carolyn she’s going to disappear, and that it doesn’t matter if the strangers helping her turn out to be bad people: they can’t possibly be worse than life inside the FLDS. Linda’s done with that life, and done with her religion. Carolyn gives her all the money she’s saved from her summer job, and they hug each other goodbye, knowing it’s probably the last time they’ll ever see each other.
Rosie hears Linda open the outside door, and tries to stop her, ordering her not to leave. She calls Linda’s father when she bolts. Arthur’s out of town with Nurylon, but all he has to do is make a phone call, and men arrive to hunt Linda down. The mayor himself questions Carolyn, but she can tell him nothing about Linda’s plans. Arthur races back home, then teams up with Claudel’s father and almost two dozen more men to track the girls. He’s devastated: Linda’s escape ruins his family’s perfect godly image. He cries in Nurylon’s bedroom, and at breakfast, demands to know if Carolyn will ever do the same to him.
“Never!” she says, a promise that will soon trap her.
If you wonder how on earth any young woman could keep such a promise, even when it means being forced to marry an abusive fucker several times your age, this is part of the reason why: escaping means becoming an apostate.
There was nothing worse a person could become. As an apostate, Linda was now condemned to spend the afterlife in the lowest realm of hell, a place of such torment that it was beyond human comprehension.
When you’re indoctrinated with that fear, when everyone in your life has told you since you were little that this is what will happen if you lose your faith, and that it’s as certain as the fact that you’ll die horribly if you jump in front of a moving train, it’s very nearly impossible to escape that fear. And as if spending eternity in the worst part of hell weren’t enough, you’ll also be cut off from your family, your friends, and your mentors in the here and now. You’ll lose everyone you’ve ever known and ever loved because they cannot risk their own salvation and status in the community by talking to you.
You’ve been told that everyone on the outside is evil, and you have no idea how to function outside of your tiny world. Your education has been crippled. You have no money, no references, and no home. With all of that, I’m astonished any of these women find their way out.
So you stay in, because there’s so much that’s terrifying about leaving. But inside, you’re going to be forced to marry, most likely someone you didn’t and wouldn’t freely choose. People may tell you that you can say no.
But this was a joke. People said that all the time, but the pressure that was applied to a woman who tried to resist an assigned marriage was crushing.
And it could crush you even after you’ve fled, as we’ll see next time.