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Abuse Hotline Reaching Out to Polygamists

Abuse Hotline Reaching Out to Polygamists

Posted - Feb. 12, 2004 at 3:14 p.m.



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Sandra Yi ReportingThe state's domestic abuse hotline hopes to help more victims; they're reaching out to polygamist wives.

Help has always been only one call away for all abuse victims, including polygamist wives. But now the hotline is trying to make polygamist wives feel more comfortable asking for that help.

Mark Shurtleff: "Abuse isn't being reported anywhere near the scale that it is in mainstream society."

A.J. Hunt, Domestic Violence Line Coordinator: "We're not a line that's out there to do prosecution. We're not a legal line. We're a helping line."

The idea surfaced after a polygamy summit in St. George in August. Utah's Attorney General would not talk about specific cases but said the abuse is widespread. He says victims who don't know about the hotline call 9-1-1.

But the hang-up is that many of the local police are polygamists and members of the FLDS church. So the, Attorney General says, victims may not be getting the help they need.

Mark Shurtleff: "There is information there, and we do believe there are women there that need help that aren't getting the help."

Polygamy advocates applaud the Attorney General’s efforts. Still, they say the abuse is no more widespread in these communities than in any other.

Anne Wilde, Polygamy Advocate: "I don't think this hotline is going to bring in great droves of polygamous women that are being abused, but at least it gives them a number and a resource, that if they need help, there's somebody they can call."

Current and former plural wives participated in sensitivity training for hotline workers.

Anne Wilde: "We would like to be treated equally as far as our civil rights are concerned, as far as abuse issues."

Linda, Advocate for Women and Children in Polygamy: "The important thing is to build trust with these people. They have been betrayed many times, they're being discriminated against every day."

Anyone who needs help can call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-8-9-7-LINK.

Hotline information will be spread in polygamous communities using billboards and providing information in stores and government offices.

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