This chapter has a lot of child abuse. So I’m going to put this right up front:
Content Note for severe physical abuse of a child.
In the Jessop household, showing any degree of spine to Barbara results in punishment. She thrives on it. So when all her sister wives do their best to keep things calm and peaceful after Merril’s heart attack, it’s only a few weeks before she escalates to get a rise out of them. She incites the children of the household to act up in hopes of provoking the wives to attack them, just so she’ll have a reason to discipline them. Carolyn’s turn comes when she calls some of the girls out for gossiping about a girl at their school who is being bullied. She snaps at them, calling them hypocrites for pretending to be shocked, considering the way they treat the wives.
She expects Barbara to come at her for it. But instead, Barbara attacks her son, Patrick.
Merril decides late one night to have impromptu family prayers. Patrick is sent to wake Carolyn, who is physically wrecked after the recent birth of her daughter Merilee. She tells him she’s too tired, and goes back to sleep. When Patrick reports back without his mother, Barbara takes him into another room, closes the door, interrogates him, and then proceeds to beat the living shit out of him. She starts with slapping, then escalates to throwing him across the room and into the metal bars of a footboard. She keeps slamming him into those bars. Then she kicks him in the stomach.
He is a tiny little four year-old. She is a 200-pound adult.
And she knows she’s gone too far. She does that child abuser thing of telling him not to tell anyone what she’s done, or she’ll beat him worse. She shakes him until he agrees. Then she hands him tissues and sits with him until he’s too terrified to continue crying.
Yep. His father knows. And he doesn’t care.
Patrick goes and cries himself to sleep in a recliner in his mom’s room. Carolyn is appalled when she sees the bruises covering him the next day, and knows he’s lying when he tells her they came from roughhousing with his siblings, but she doesn’t force the truth from him. Instead, she comes up with ways to protect her kids.
Mind you, she can’t go to the local police: they’re all FLDS. They won’t do shit. She can’t go to Merril, because he’ll deny anything happened and do absolutely nothing. She would also be opening Patrick up to retaliation. She can’t go to CPS: “they had poor track records of protecting women and children in Colorado City. Victims routinely got sent back to perpetrators.”
All she can do is keep her kids with her at all times when they aren’t in school. She takes them to work with her. She feeds them in her room. Luckily, when she enlists her mother, she doesn’t get a lecture on obeying her husband this time. Instead, her mom gets her food she can keep in her room.
Patrick carries the secret of what Barbara did to him for nine years. He doesn’t feel safe telling her even after they’ve fled. He finally is able to tell her what happened over three years after their escape.
This is the kind of shit the police and CPS just allow to happen in the FLDS communities. There’s a horrible deference we as a society show to pious groups. We let religious people get away with far too much. We pretend we have no right to interfere with them. But believing in a god or gods shouldn’t give you the ability to physically abuse children and get away with it. Piety shouldn’t be a shield for child beaters.
It’s far past time to deny religion the power to let people hit children with impunity. This is one hope I have for the rise of the Nones: that we finally start doing the right thing.