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Carole Mikita reporting As FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was sentenced to prison yesterday for crimes related to polygamy, a woman who helped authorities bring charges against him sighed with relief.
Carolyn Jessop was born and raised in that community until she escaped, winning custody of her eight children. In her newly released book "Escape," she tells the story of horrific abuse and her struggle for freedom.
"It took the face of a mother trying to protect her children from, basically, organized crime that really shook 'em," Jessop said.
She told horrific stories of abuse--physical, sexual, emotional, religious--to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff about the FLDS community where she was born and raised. Those stories helped target the polygamist group's leader, Warren Jeffs.
In her book "Escape," Jessop describes abuse as part of daily life there along the Utah-Colorado border. "To perpetuate this lifestyle, you are gonna have to have an enormous amount of violence and other forms or methods to intimidate and terrorize to keep people under control," Jessop explained.
By age 14, Carolyn loved learning. She had just graduated from high school, hoping to become a doctor. She was expecting her second child when she received her college degree, because at 18 she was forced to become the fourth wife of a 50-year-old man, which led to abuse for her and later her children.
On April 22, 2003, Carolyn Jessop fled with her four sons, one of them disabled, and four daughters. "I did not want them to live the kind of life I'd lived," Jessop said.
They found peace, and she refuses to live in fear. "I've had four and a half years of freedom that I would not have had if I hadn't have done what I'd done, and if I had to pay for that four and a half years with my life then, you know, at least I've had it, and they can never take that from me," she said.
In a ground-breaking court case, Jessop won custody of her children, but her oldest daughter just returned to the sect. Jessop hopes she will see her again and that the public will help stop the crimes there. "I feel like people will never do anything about this problem unless they know what's going on and how it truly impacts a human life," she said.
Carolyn Jessop dedicated her book to her children and also to other women and children who feel "desperately trapped in polygamy." She writes, "[They] may wonder if they even deserve to dream of freedom and safety." Then she says to them, "You do."