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Excerpt from "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer


Flora Jessop is extremely relieved that Elizabeth Smart was discovered alive and thinks the outpouring of support Elizabeth has received is wonderful. But in Jessop’s view it underscores the disturbing absence of support for another young victim of polygamy—her sister, Ruby Jessop--whose

Ruby Jessop

predicament she first brought to the attention of government officials more than a year before Elizabeth was abducted.

Ruby was fourteen years old when she was observed innocently kissing a boy she fancied in Colorado City. For this unforgivable sin she was immediately forced to marry an older member of her extended family, whom she despised, in a fundamentalist ceremony presided over by Warren Jeffs. Like Elizabeth, Ruby was raped immediately after the wedding ceremony---so brutally that she spent her “wedding night” hemorrhaging copious amounts of blood. Unlike Elizabeth, however, Ruby attempted to flee her coerced marriage, running to the home of a sympathetic brother where she thought she would find refuge. Lured away from her brother’s house by false promises, in May 2001 Ruby was allegedly abducted by members of the FLDS Church and brought to the home of her stepfather, Fred Jessop, second councilor to the prophet—the same house where Flora Jessop had been confined seventeen years earlier.

Flora—who fled Colorado City on the day Ruby was born: May 3, 1986—called the county sheriff to report that her sister had been kidnapped. When a sheriff’s deputy came to Colorado City to look into the supposed crime, he was told by leaders of the church that the girl was “on vacation”; the deputy accepted this a-sceptically and departed. Flora, furious at this apparent dereliction of duty, redoubled her efforts to persuade someone in a position of state authority to take action on behalf of her little sister. A month later, thanks to Flora’s agitation, FLDS members were compelled by the Utah Department of Child and Family Services to bring Ruby to nearby St. George and meet with a social worker. Interviewed in the intimidating presence of one of her alleged abductors, Ruby told the social worker that “everything was fine” and was promptly returned to members of the faith. Two years after that, as a sixteen-year-old, she gave birth to a child. Despite Flora’s ongoing efforts to rescue her, nobody outside Colorado City has heard from Ruby since the summer 2001. She has effectively vanished into the folds of the fundamentalist Church.

Antipolygamy activist Lorna Craig, a colleague of Flora Jessop’s, is baffled and outraged by Utah’s indifferent treatment of Ruby—especially when compared to the colossal effort the state mustered to rescue Elizabeth Smart and prosecute her abductors. Craig notes that both Elizabeth and Ruby were fourteen when they were kidnapped, raped, and “kept captive by polygamous fanatics.” The main difference in the girls’ respective ordeals, she says, is that “Elizabeth was brainwashed for nine months,” while Ruby had been brainwashed by polygamous fanatics “since birth.” Despite the similarity of their plights, Elizabeth’s abusers were jailed and charged with sexual assault, aggravated burglary, and aggravated kidnapping, while Ruby, says Craig, “Was returned to her abusers, no real investigation was done, no charges were brought against anyone involved.”

The dissimilar outcomes are attributable, in Craig’s view, to the fact that Ruby Jessop was born into a polygamous community that has been allowed to break state and federal laws with impunity for many decades. Craig points out that because the mayor, the police, and the judge in Colorado City—Hildale are themselves polygamists who are absolutely obedient to the prophet, there is “nowhere for victims of abuse to turn. . . . I would say that teaching a girl that her salvation depends on her having sexual relations with a married man is inherently destructive.” Such relationships, Craig argues bitterly, should be considered “a crime, not a religion.”