Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FLDS Pregnancies or Incendiary Tactics?

This post is to those of you who are shocked by the headlines you are reading today saying that 31 of 53 of the YFZ girls abducted by Texas CPS ages 14 to 17 have children, are pregnant, or both. Attorneys on the scene are warning that the numbers are extremely unreliable and that those interested in the case should remain cautious about believing these media reports. The tally of women and children has changed almost daily over the past three weeks. Amanda Chisholm, who works for TRLA, said she would be surprised if the actual number of teenage girls who are pregnant or mothers is "anywhere near that high."

Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar admitted that the age of the girls was determined by their attorneys or by looking at the women. "I have seen them myself," he said, "and I don't see any that look like an adult to me."

"My clients told us they were put in a line and looked at," said attorney Julie Balovich. "So I know that is how some of the numbers happened."

Azar also did not know how many girls were pregnant, but acknowledged that it is a small number. In earlier reports, CPS said that three teenagers are pregnant. Salt Lake attorney Rod Parker, a spokesman for the FLDS, said that of the three, one teenager refused to take a pregnancy test, one is 18 and the other is 17.

One problem in determining the ages of the girls is that some women may be claiming to be minors in order to stay with their children. TRLA attorney Julie Balovich said one woman now deemed to be a teenager is a 24-year-old woman who is pregnant. FLDS member Willie Jessop contends the state's tally also includes a 28-year-old whom the state has listed as being 17.

Another problem in these tallies is that the state is using a list which has been compiled of 20 minors and young women who conceived their first child between the ages of 13 and 16. The list includes women who had children ten or more years ago. For example, one woman was 13 when she conceived a child who was born in 1997! Another woman was 14 when she conceived a child born in 2000--eight years ago. Some of the women conceived children in other states, or before the change in Texas law regarding the age of consent. An interesting point to me would be how the age of pregnancy of the FLDS has changed over time, or since the arrest of Warren Jeffs. Is the sect attempting to comply with the laws of the state?

A final consideration for many is the number that was released regarding the teenaged boys in custody. The media is reporting that while there are 53 girls between those ages there are only 17 boys. I am wondering why they are not including or mentioning the 25 adolescent boys who were taken away from the main group very early in this raid and placed on a boys' ranch. Perhaps there are other boys who are away working and are not "lost." This is another example of half-truths intended to mislead the public.

I am really getting so annoyed with this media hype, playing on the concern of Americans for abused children. I prefer to look at this in the light of a wider world view. Throughout the world and over time and cultures, girls who begin menarche are considered women. They begin to marry and bear children. It has been in the past 100 years only that we have decided that young girls should have more choice and should put off childbearing until later. As a feminist, I believe this is a good thing. But who is to say that it is the only true and proper choice? Some studies have shown that childbearing at younger ages is healthier and more optimal for infant and mother. I believe in the right of this group to choose their family patterns and customs. Teaching their children to submit is not abuse, it is a different lifestyle choice. There are many tenets of this faith which are clearly healthier and more moral than mainstream teachings.

Ever since this case began, I have felt that persecution has been rampant. This is not the way to solve problems or difficulties within the religion. True believers will only cling to their faith more adamantly, seek to withdraw and hide from society and bear wounds from this forced separation for generations.

21 comments:

Kalola said...

BiV ~ Reading your post this morning helped me to not feel so alone in my perceptions. Thank you.

Clark Goble said...

Realistically though, why would it matter if someone got pregnant at 13 over 8 years ago? I believe the statute of limitations on rape is typically something like 20 years. If there are such cases there then that justifies most of what Texas is doing even if no the judge's excessive orders for taking the children away from everyone regardless of abuse.

But it seems to me that even if the numbers are 20 that is pretty systematic abuse.

Is anyone even denying that the FLDS marry off young women which is considered rape?

Anonymous said...

Clark,
While the statute of limitations would vary from state to state, you're probably right that rape and sexual abuse statutes tend to run long.

That said, there are a couple problems with Texas citing someone who got pregnant 8 years ago when she was 13. First, unless it happened in Texas, Texas can't prosecute it. If the state in which it happened (presumably Utah or Arizona) wanted to prosecute, Texas could hand them over.

Also, although it suggests statutory rape, underage pregnancy isn't prima facie evidence of it. This isn't my area of law, but, IIRC, most states say that under a certain age (11 or 12, maybe, depending on the state), any sexual contact is statutory rape. But once you hit a certain threshold, consensual sex with someone, say, 3 years older than you wouldn't be statutory rape, even though with someone 10 years older it would be (as far as I know, the specific ages differ for each state). So it is possible that, in some states, a 13- or 14-year-old who was pregnant by her 15-year-old boyfriend wouldn't be the victim of statutory rape. So it suggests it happened, but isn't absolute evidence.

Clark Goble said...

I'd say that in this context especially given other arrests within the FLDS community and informers on the FLDS that a pregnant 13 year old is prima facie evidence of rape. Now it's not enough to prosecute but it's more than enough to conduct the investigation and get search warrants and so forth.

Which is all irrelevant since that's already going on.

For the other issue it seems to conflate two issues. One, the criminal charges against the husband who would be guilty of rape. At best your point is that the case can't be tried in Texas but surely that's largely irrelevant. The police can collect the evidence and let the attorney general of some other state prosecute. (Say Mark Shurtleff if the rape took place in Utah)

However the main issue isn't criminal charges but rather family services and whether children should be around such a man.

So let's keep those issues separate from the criminal charges. I suspect it'll be a few months before criminal charges are filed. (As I think it almost inevitable that they will be) Evidence has to be collected first. That's a completely different issue from whether children should be removed from the home and perhaps a restraining order put up for the father.

Clark Goble said...

To add, the genetic testing which will determine who is the father and mother of each child (since parents and children appear to be unwilling to say and those who do aren't necessarily trustworthy) can then lead to final decisions about both criminal charges and how children ought be treated.

I'm pretty critical of the judge removing all the children. However I think the basic investigation is a good thing. Those guilty of rape ought be in prision.

Anonymous said...

Clark,
That prior annonymous was me; I forgot to put a name.

I am conflating criminal and family services, but you are, too. A pregnant 13-year-old may well be prima facie evidence of rape, but a 21-year-old with an 8-year-old child is not, unless (again, to the best of my knowledge) she decides to press charges. Maybe the fact that she got pregnant by a 30-year-old adds credence to an argument that the now-38-year-old raped another 13-year-old who is pregnant.

I agree that those who raped little girls should be prosecuted (using the broadest sense of "rape" that can reasonably be used). However, the fact that a girl in the community was impregnated 8 years ago when she was 13 isn't evidence of anything--the man who impregnated her may have been 15 at the time, or 50. He may or may not be in the community anymore. He may have been an outsider. So while perhaps it's enough to raise eyebrows, and even open an investigation (maybe) it certainly isn't enough to open a broad investigation, take children away, etc. (and I realize that you agree with this).

That Texas is trying to use a minor's pregnancy from 8 years ago to justify their investigation suggests that they've got some really bad PR people or they really don't have much to work with; I wouldn't necessarily expect them to put their best evidence forward, but if they're inflating the numbers the way BiV's information (and their own evidence) suggests, they're not doing super well.

Sam B.

Clark Goble said...

I don't think I'm conflating the two.

I think the state is saying, "hey, there is a systematic condition of abuse at the compound and all the women knew of it." They just need to establish prima facie reasoning for this.

Now as you know I don't think that would excuse all the judges decisions. But I do think it would lead to many people thinking that at least children from 10 - 16 might be in immediate danger.

If there was someone who was having sex at 13 and there is circumstantial evidence at this point to believe it was an adult then that seems pretty compelling evidence. If they can find many women who were 13 - 15 at the time of 'marriage' and can establish that the community would know of it (which seems reasonable given the size of the community) then that's pretty compelling evidence for systematic abuse and all the adults being accessories.

It's not sufficient for criminal charges but is more than sufficient for CPS actions as I see it. After all if everyone in the community knows it is going on and is contributing to it then that's pretty compelling reasons to see children as in immediate risk.

Now what I think then has to follow is the ability of parental lawyers, children lawyers, and state lawyers to argue the case on an individual basis. And that hasn't happened which is horrible in my view. But I think that just with the evidence announced there's quite the case for CPS.

You are right though that some of this evidence is coming out to justify the Texas actions. But it seems like finding out a girl was getting married at 13 in that community is pretty good PR. From the PR front it's pretty hard to argue with that. Trying to say it might have been with a 16 year old doesn't excuse it. Since whomever allowed it to occur (presumably everyone in the community) are themselves party to rape. 13 is so extreme an age I can't see anyone excusing that.

Mark D. said...

Clark,

You are painting with a rather broad brush. Failure to report does not make one an accessory to a crime.

In addition, while underage marriages are regarded as "abuse" under the law, in historical terms there is no reason to regard them as such. No malum se here. Several months ago, one could get legally married in Texas at 14. Now somebody jumping the gun by a few months is reason to put them away for the rest of their life?

Laws like this are nothing more than cultural imperialism. Custom enforced at the point of a gun.

The prosecutors have an obligation to enforce the laws, no matter how stupid. The FLDS have an obligation to follow them. However, there is little or no evidence that any crimes have been committed here, and what few probably have been committed are strictly technical in nature.

Clark Goble said...

I believe Texas changed the law to 17. So yes, if someone is being married to an older man and they are under 17 I think that is more than deserving of putting the guy away.

The fact in the past it wasn't like that is irrelevant. I think it a disgrace that Texas only changed this for the FLDS. (And that may in itself cause legal questions) But it seems entirely appropriate to have made the change. I'd say the same if it was a 15 year old baptist marrying a 30 year old.

Failure to report isn't a crime but contributing to the environment is reason to deal with CPS. I'm not saying these women ought be put in jail for not reporting. I am saying that their acts contribute to a dangerous environment for children.

Mark D. said...

Clark,

Why should we bother prosecuting criminals anymore when instead we could just have CPS take away the children of all the suspects?

The whole idea of a hazardous environment for children is enormously subjective. It is what turns CPS into an agent of cultural imperialism - judging the religion, culture, practices of anyone out of favor with a jaundiced eye - even when they are perfectly legal.

In this country we slaughter hundreds of thousands of unborn children every year and all everyone can think about is a few unfortunate girls who got married a few months too early. Killing really little kids it politically correct, marrying someone a little too early is nearly a capital offense. Talk about hypocrisy.

Clark Goble said...

To add, you're never going to convince me that older men marrying young girls (13 & 14) is merely cultural imperialism. I'm willing to excuse it in cultures that don't know better. But that says nothing about whether it is good or whether it ought be permitted in our community.

Mark D, lots of things are subjective. The fact there is a grey area where people may disagree says nothing about whether there is an area most are agreed upon.

To draw an analogy it may be impossible to define pornography. That doesn't mean that pornography doesn't exist.

I'd say it's pretty unarguable that rape is one of those areas.

Mark D. said...

Clark,

In this case, there is one unsubstantiated allegation that one 21 year old had a child at age thirteen, some eight years ago. So if they can find the guy, prosecute him. That doesn't mean there is any imminent "danger" to anyone else, especially anyone not a female between the ages of thirteen and sixteen.

Essentially what Texas has done here is to try to destroy a nonconformist religious community en toto on the basis of what appear to be occasional violations of the law by some of its members. No individualized evidence, no probable cause, just snatch and grab.

Civilized governments actually prosecute offenders they can prove violated the laws beyond a reasonable doubt, not try to exterminate whole communities for the sins of a few.

Bored in Vernal said...

I really don't like calling this rape.

But I can't dispute what Mark said: "The prosecutors have an obligation to enforce the laws, no matter how stupid. The FLDS have an obligation to follow them."

The biggest problem comes when, in their attempt to enforce the law, authorities disregard the law themselves, trampling civil rights and causing harm to those who are not guilty.

We have an obligation to point this out and to protest the gross miscarriage of justice, lest it set a dangerous precedent that could later harm other citizens with non-mainstream or unpopular views.

Ayla said...

So let’s look at these numbers and run a little comparison. The low end of the reports say there are 3 teenage mothers out of 139 women total, the high end of the report claims 31 teenage mothers out of 139 women. So anywhere from 2 % to 22% of the women seized by authorities at the Yearning for Zion FLDS community were teenage mothers.

According to Victor C Strasburger, MD University of New Mexico, about one million teens on average becomes pregnant every year in the US. About one third of these pregnancies end in abortion, one third in miscarriage and one third are carried to term. More than half of these mothers are 17 years or younger when they get pregnant for the first time. Approximately 40% of young women become pregnant by the age of 20 and the US has double the adolescent pregnancy and birth rates of any other industrialized nation (Strasburger).

Considering that 3 to 31 teen mothers were found out of supposedly 53 teenage girls taken captive, we can clearly see that the number of pregnant girls in the FLDS community is not that out of step with the US population in general. 40% of US women become pregnant by the age of 20 and within the FLDS teenage women we find that anywhere from about 6% to 56% of teenagers were pregnant, mothers or both at the time of the raid (also bare in mind that 1/3 of all US teen pregnancies ends in abortion and the FLDS community does not believe in abortion thus resulting in a higher number of teenage girls who have carried their babies to term in comparison to the US average).

Clark Goble said...

Ayla, if there were no other contextual information you'd be right. But there is other information such as how the community reacts towards dating and past evidence of underage marriage.

Mark D, if you look closely I've never defended the judges actions in removing all children and have in fact criticized it. However if one can establish that there is community wide acceptance of rape and support for such rape that leads to a different situation than the parallels many are bringing up.

As bad as the sexual situation in many inner cities are it's not quite the same as with the FLDS. For the record I think society does have a duty to do something about the horrible situation in inner cities and in many other low-income communities with high rates of young pregnancies. I think it unfathomable how society doesn't do more.

But two wrongs don't make a right. And rapes in inner cities are prosecuted when proof is found.

Certainly we don't have all the facts. But let's let the officials get the facts - especially genetic tests - so that both criminal cases as well as custody cases can be done in an informed manner. The history of the FLDS in destroying such records, lying about ages and so forth has contributed to the current situation as much as anything. Had they in the past been more open then I think there would have been prima facie reasons to trust their statements and evidence for age and parentage.

Bored in Vernal said...

Clark, I agree with you about our obligation to try to deal with problems in inner cities, etc., which is why I don't like using that particular comparison.

let's let the officials get the facts

It looks like that is what is happening, like it or not. But doesn't the civil rights issue bother you in view of the precedent it sets?? It seems to me that the way this was done will cause the FLDS to become even more secretive and withdrawn from society in the future.

Poor decisions on every hand, with more occurring every day. No phone caller, no underage pregnant girls, mothers ripped from nursing children, sick kids in hospitals. Sounds like the FLDS may have grounds for a huge lawsuit when this comes to a conclusion.

C. L. Hanson said...

The civil rights angle is absolutely what has bothered me about this from the beginning. It would be impossible to remove every child from every community that has some cases of abuse. So we're creating a precedent that a priori can never be applied fairly. And the fact that I've read all over the Internet that since these guys are a cult, anything to stop them is justified scares me even more because what's a "cult" is a subjective judgement based entirely on popular opinion.

On a personal note, I was shocked when I read the news stories about the pregnant teens and the hair on a bed in the temple. The reason I was shocked was because my first reaction was "so the authorities give themselves permission to illegally search for all the evidence they could find, and that's the best they could come up with? A few pregnant teenagers and a hair on a bed? Do you mind finding me a town in Texas where a raid wouldn't turn up pregnant teens and a hair on a bed?" It's not evidence of anything, yet the public eats it up.

As you've seen in my other posts and comments, I don't sympathize with the FLDS or their teachings in the slightest, but I think it's critical that the Constitution has to apply to everyone. And I agree also that in practical terms this illegal blunder is nothing but counterproductive in terms of stopping what abuses exist in the FLDS community.

Bored in Vernal said...

REPORTS OF ABUSE:
I don't want to do another post on this subject, but the latest reports look like more of the same hype. I have become quite distrustful of the reporting by government agencies.

"Investigators have discovered a history of physical injuries, INCLUDING broken bones..."

What does this mean? 5 children have had broken bones, and a few have scars, some have ingrown toenails???

"gave NO OTHER DETAILS on the children's injuries, but said 41 children were AFFECTED."

Please.

Clark Goble said...

C L if you listened to the KSL interview I linked to at M* you'll notice the Utah AG suggested that the Texas AG had nothing to do with this. Yet they are going to have to defend all the civil rights lawsuits that are coming up. Reading between the lines one gets the impression the Texas AG wasn't too happy about many of the actions.

I think it's way too early to say this will be a precedence. I think it'll end up being a mess that will prevent this sort of thing in the future.

I think it's bad enough that this is why authorities are releasing all this information. They simply look so bad.

Mark D. said...

Clark,

As serious as it might be in some circumstances, I think it is ridiculous distortion of the language to call any consensual sexual activity "rape".

Calling anything a "rape" (or even "sexual assault") that does not involve forcibly molesting someone *against* their will pollutes the meaning of the term.

At the very least, you could call it "statutory rape", i.e. so people know that it is not a *real* (i.e. dictionary) rape you are talking about.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

For what it's worth- I don't think Texas calls it statutory rape anymore. It's called sexual assault, and the statute of limitations is ten years- if I am understanding all the lawyer posts about it I have read elsewhere.

I also believe the community has only been at the ranch since 2004, so there is a HIGH probability that the pregnancy from the 1990s did not happen in Texas and was not illegal at the time and place where it did occur.
Angie Voss testified that she didn't know if she had tried to ascertain if any of the teenaged boys might have been the fathers- and that, on the face of it, doesn't even make sense. How could she not even know whether she had tried to find out of teenaged boys were involved or not?