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Sun Jessop HEADLINE: Flora Jessop escaped a polygamy life 15 years
ago - seeks to help sister
BY: Patrice St. Germain
HURRICANE - Flora Jessop has a special connection to her sister,
Ruby - a person she has never met. "Ruby gave me my freedom,"
Jessop said. "She was born the day I left Hildale. May 3, 1986."
Jessop only knows her sister through telephone conversations. She
is now trying to find her. Ruby Jessop, 14, attempted to flee an
arranged marriage in Colorado City, Ariz., on April 23. On May 15,
she left her husband to go to her brother's home, also in the
Colorado City/Hildale area. On the weekend of May 19 and 20, the
child bride went swimming at Quail Lake with her brothers. There,
a friend picked her up and returned Ruby to her parent's home. No
one has heard from Ruby since, said Flora Jessop.
"I don't believe she is around here. If she was, I would be able
to feel her here," Jessop said pointing to her heart.Flora Jessop
is one of 28 children born to Joseph C. Jessop Sr. and his first
two wives. She first tried to get away from the strong
Fundamentalist LDS Church ties by bringing sexual abuse charges
against her father when she was 14 years old. She said she saw her
father hand the judge $4,000. The judge said he could see the girl
had lied and the case was dismissed.
Flora was then confined to Fred Jessop's home, her uncle, until
she agreed to marry her first cousin, Philip Jessop when she was
16. "He was my friend and he helped me leave," she said. "Philip
has since left the area as well."
At an Apostate Potluck lunch Saturday at Jay Beswick's home,
Jessop recounted her life after listening to a tape-recorded
conversation between Charlene Jessop, her father's third wife, and
Les Zitting, who is Charlene's brother. During the conversation,
Zitting asks Charlene Jessop about Ruby. "Ruby who?" was the
reply. Later in the conversation, Charlene Jessop tells her
brother that he is working hand-in-hand with the devil and said
she couldn't deal with the devil's work. She then told her brother
she would not speak to him again.
Flora Jessop, now 32, lives in Phoenix and has a normal life after
escaping what she calls abuse and brainwashing. "Abuse is so
rampant over there (Hildale/Colorado City)," Jessop said. Flora
considers herself lucky to have an education. Like other girls in
Hildale/Colorado City, she was forced to leave school after eighth
grade. But because of the charges she brought against her father,
the court system required her to earn an education. She received a
G.E.D. through the American School while imprisoned at her uncle's
Dressed in a pair of short striped shorts and shirt on Saturday,
Flora said this wasn't her normal attire until after she left the
FLDS lifestyle when she was 16 years old. "Sleeves have to be
below the wrist bone, but you can roll them up to do dishes - but
not to work in the garden. Collars need to be above the collarbone
and dresses, six inches below the knee," she said. "Long underwear
is worn under dresses. In fact all the time. Shoes are tennis
shoes or shoes without a heel. No makeup or jewelry is worn other
than a wedding band and hair is not to be cut and is always worn
up." Jessop said the long hair is part of a belief that women will
have to wash Christ's feet with their hair when they pass onto the
next world. The long underwear has significance as well. Members
of the church believe there will be an Indian uprising, but they
will be left unharmed because the long underwear is a sign that
they are part of God's work. "You are born dressing like that,"
Jessop said. She also said men aren't required to dress in any
special way. Jessop calls the religion a cult that uses
brainwashing to keep people under control.
When she left Hildale in 1986, the first thing Flora Jessop did
was cut her hair short - very short. A picture of Jessop during an
interview with television journalist Harry Reasoner in 1986 shows
Jessop with short hair, pierced ears, nail polish and a tank top
with her bra strap showing. "Heck, it was surprising I even wore a
bra," she said with a smile. Jessop said she knows that actions
her sister took showed she wanted to leave the Hildale community.
"She cut her hair and changed her clothes," she said. "I know she
wanted to leave." Flora also said that during telephone
conversations with Ruby in May, Ruby said she wanted to leave the
culture and the marriage. Jessop said she would not rest until she
has found her sister. But she added that there are a lot of Rubys
in the Colorado City-Hildale area. "Every single one of them is a
Ruby," she said. "Some don't even realize it. That's how deep it
goes. They don't realize it until they get out."
The teachings of the FLDS Church are that the Colorado City/Hildale
area is God's World and those outside the area are disciples of
the devil. Jessop, because of her upbringing, was never sure what
would happen if she changed her hair and lifestyle. "Nothing would
be worse that what happened to me in God's world," she said. "I
hated God when I left and despised the church and religion, but
now I realize that God was sitting on my shoulder the whole time."