AFTERWORD I BY KELLY WHITE Abby’s Brood am one of the few bystanders involved with the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints mess who seems free to speak. I have seen firsthand how extraordinarily screwed up this whole thing has become. I hosted one of the young mothers from the Yearning for Zion Ranch in my home for over a week, and in the process became close to her. Let’s call her Abby. I spent more than a decade as executive director of SafePlace, a program providing safety, healing, and domestic violence and sexual assault prevention in Austin and Travis County. So I am well connected with the state and local networks that kicked into gear when large numbers of FLDS women and children were removed from their homes. I am not a social worker or an attorney, but when the call went out for attorneys and social workers to help, I volunteered to pitch in however I could. I admit that my initial fervor was fueled by my abhorrence of the lifestyle inflicted on the women associated with the FLDS sect, and by my concern for the children. Within days, I received a call asking if I was willing to let Abby stay with me so she could have access to her two children in foster care here in Austin. I was told that Abby was 23 years old and the mother of a 2-year-old boy and a baby girl. Mothers of children younger than 1 were allowed to stay with their kids, but since Abby’s baby girl turned 1 year old while the families were being held in San Angelo’s Coliseum, Abby was unable to stay with her when the children were put into foster care, despite the fact that she was still nursing. I cannot overstate my anxiety as I went to pick Abby up. My family has a television in almost every room. Red \(a sacred color in the FLDS, and therefore not worn or used for decorative home and my wardrobe. I try to make a home-cooked meal every couple of weeks, and no one accuses me of using healthy ingredients. On the other hand, I think I dress fairly modestly. I have an extraordinarily happy marriage and have raised good kids, all now fully grown or nearly so. I am an understanding person who is able to set interpersonal boundaries. My anxiety was nothing compared with Abby’s. She had been raised primarily in Hildale, Utah, within a multigenerational FLDS family, and had been living at The Ranch, as she referred to the Yearning for Zion compound, for over two years. She told me she had been specifically chosen to move to The Ranch. Abby wears the long, prairie-style dress and the long underwear or “garment” of her faith, and her long hair is styled in the bouffant so familiar from recent media coverage. She is smart and funny and delightful to have around. I told her we would need to go to the store to get food that she liked and that if she chose to come with me, which I hoped she would, people would likely stare at her because of her clothing. She said she would like to come and changed into long pants and a long-sleeved, highnecked top. She also took her hair down and let it hang down her back. Our first trip was to Whole Foods Market, where Abby chose the healthiest food I had ever had in my house. That night we went to dinner at a local barbecue restaurant. Each time we returned home, Abby changed back into her traditional garb. We went somewhere each day: to see her attorney, to the store, to purchase a sewing machine and fabric, to SafePlace so she could meet with an advocate. She was allowed to spend one hour during the week with her children. Each time we went out, Abby changed into regular street clothes and wore her hair long. As the week wore on, she began to leave her hair down and her street clothes on when we returned home from our outings. Abby was incredibly lucky. Her two children were placed together in Austin. It was rare to meet a mom whose children had all been placed in the same community. I was constantly asked about Abby’s husband and family back in Hildale. I didn’t ask Abby about those details. She shared information with me as she became comfortable, and I didn’t want to put her in the uncomfortable position of refusing to answer my questions or having to tell me an untruth. It appeared I am a devoted feminist who has spent almost my entire adult life working for the rights of women and girls, but I have seen how hard it is for the state to impose those rights on unwilling participants. And I have seen how an inept bureaucracy can subvert the best intentions. JUNE 13, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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