🏠

The 14-Year-Old Child Bride Forced to Marry In a Polygamous Sect | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN

This is the text version of the YouTube video "The 14-Year-Old Child Bride Forced…".

Click on a phrase of interest to open a video of that moment.

[MUSIC PLAYING] ELISSA WALL: I was horrified at the prospect of embarking on my wedding night. Even with all my clothes on, I still couldn't imagine being in the same room by myself with a man. It wasn't just that I was afraid of Allen. I was overwhelmed at the idea of being in bed with him. As a naive 14-year-old FLDS girl, I had no idea that people did more than sleep in bed. Her testimony was the first time that you had sexual intercourse, you undressed her, and she was sobbing and crying and shaking in fear. That's not what you recall. No. ELISSA WALL: The truth was that I knew nothing about sex, absolutely nothing. I didn't even know that sex existed. That was an excerpt from Elissa Wall's new book. It's called "Stolen Innocence." Elissa grew up in Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect and was forced to marry at the age of 14. This is the actual dress that she wore on her wedding day. And how did you find out you were getting married, number one? ELISSA WALL: I received word I was getting married from my father at the time. He was not my biological father. But he was an appointed father at the time. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And he had gathered us in a family gathering. And he just mentioned to the family that three of his girls were going to be married. And he had quite a significant amount of young girls. And then later on, he brought me aside with my mother and told me that I was one of those young girls. OPRAH WINFREY: Wow. And what did you think at first or feel? At first, I was shocked. There was many girls older than myself that were in his family. And it was very shocking. I thought for sure he actually had me confused with another one of his daughters. But after questioning, he assured me that, yes, it was me that was going to be married. OPRAH WINFREY: Yeah. And I heard from "Stolen Innocence" that you actually went and begged not to be married. Yes, I did, several times. OPRAH WINFREY: Who did you beg? Well, I petitioned to both my appointed father, Warren Jeffs, and then the prophet who was the leader at the time. Mm-hm. And what did you say? I asked them if they could wait. I wanted at least two years to grow up. And then when I later found out who I was to be married to, who was my cousin, that really upset me. And that's also one thing I begged them, is that they could at least find someone else for me to marry other than my cousin. Now, do they decide? Or did your cousin ask for you? Absolutely. The people of that culture, they believe in placement marriage, arranged marriages. The people who are actually in the marriage do not decide for themselves. The leader or someone acting on the prophet who they call the leader on his behalf is the one who arranges the marriages and decides who goes with who. So when you said you married, you didn't even know what sex was. You say in the book that at the time that you married, you thought that beds were just for sleeping. Yes. OPRAH WINFREY: Yes. And so how did you come-- obviously-- come to know differently? Well, I was like many, many girls from there. They don't teach a sexual knowledge. They don't teach you human anatomy. I mean, it goes from mother to mother who decides what they want to tell their daughters. OPRAH WINFREY: But after your mother knew you were going to get married, there isn't a kind of, you know, even in some cultures, the women then try to school the girls as to what's going to happen on your wedding night and to prepare you. No. I was told that my husband would do that, that he would be the one that would explain it to me. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And that's a very common thing-- OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. --that they leave it for the husband to do the education. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. Did you consummate the marriage on the wedding night? No, the marriage was not consummated till a little while after. But when it did happen, I mean, it was very shocking. It was very traumatic. Coming from a very innocent mind where I knew nothing of even the anatomy of my own body-- OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. --and then to go from 0 to 100 was really hard and overwhelming. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And who did you have to talk to about that? No one. They teach very heavily as you're growing up that those relations, any kind of sexual relations, or as they call it marital relations, they teach that you only communicate that with your husband, that it is so sacred and so private that you don't have the right to tell other people about it. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. So I didn't have anyone to talk to about it. OPRAH WINFREY: Born into the polygamist sect known as the FLDS, Elissa Wall was just 14 years old when she was told it was time for her to marry. A husband who also happened to be her 19-year-old first cousin was chosen for her. Devastated, Elissa says she begged the church's leaders to reconsider her fate. Warren Jeffs, the prophet who is now in prison for accessory to rape, told Elissa her marriage was a revelation from God and could not be refused. Is it common to marry your cousins or other close relatives? It's common in that culture, yes. It's definitely something they don't taboo. You see it quite a bit.

It's never as close as father and sister. But it does happen quite a bit. Is there a concern-- well, I don't know, if nobody talks about sex, do they ever talk about birth defects? Is there concern about marrying-- It's never as close as father and sister. But it does happen quite a bit. Is there a concern-- well, I don't know, if nobody talks about sex, do they ever talk about birth defects? Is there concern about marrying-- Well, as I was told, was that because the prophet and God condoned this marriage there was no concern for that. Mm-hm. And they had told me that because God and the prophet, this was their will, that there would not be a problem. OPRAH WINFREY: OK. When you got married and you're having sex with your husband, do you know that two people consummating a marriage, intercourse, did you know that that was called intercourse? Absolutely not. They really don't have those terms in that culture. They don't use "intercourse" or "sex" very often. They have their own terms for it. So no, I did not know that I was having-- OPRAH WINFREY: What is their term for it? What is their term? They very often use marital relations or husband-wife relations-- OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. --terms like that. They don't usually say "sex" or "intercourse." Where did you think babies came from? [CHUCKLING] I was told they came from heaven. I didn't know at the time what it took physically to have a child. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And even when the actual intercourse happened, it was very long time before I came to the understanding that that's what happens. OPRAH WINFREY: Yeah, you write in the book how traumatizing that was. Absolutely. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. What did your husband say? Well, he told me that that was-- it was the prophet's and God's will, that this was his job and right as a husband of mine. So OK, we're going to look at a picture here. What's going on in that picture? Wow. [CHUCKLING] That picture was taken on our honeymoon just shortly after we were married. Then my father at the time sent us on a honeymoon. And throughout the honeymoon, I was having a hard time-- OPRAH WINFREY: Where'd you go? It was kind of just a road trip. We went down through Arizona, New Mexico, a piece of Texas, different places like that. And throughout the honeymoon, I was very offish to Allen, my appointed husband. And he couldn't get me to kiss him. And the other people, the other couples that were on the actual honeymoon with us, had dared me to kiss him. So other couples are on the honeymoon? ELISSA WALL: Yes, they were. This is as different kind of honeymoon. Yes. [LAUGHTER] [CHUCKLING] OK, other couples are on the honeymoon-- ELISSA WALL: Mm-hm. --who were also married. ELISSA WALL: They were married the same day I was, yes. So it's a honeymoon group thing. Yeah. OK. And it was definitely not your typical honeymoon. OPRAH WINFREY: Meaning? Well, most of the girls didn't know their husband beforehand. So it's kind of a get to know one another. I mean, there was no romantic getaways or things like that. It was very uncomfortable for me, anyway. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And as far as the kissing picture, they couldn't get me to kiss him. So Allen just grabbed me one day and just brought me in for a kiss. And you know, even as I look at it today, it hurts me to see that I was so uncomfortable, I was blocking him with both my arms to push him away. Well, Elissa's former husband, Allen Steed has been charged with one count of rape. We contacted him. And his attorney gave us a statement saying that Allen has pled not guilty and is contesting all of the charges that he's anticipating at trial. ELISSA WALL: He started to undress me and undress himself. I was crying. And I was, like, please, I-- I don't want you doing it. It doesn't feel right. Please stop. Please quit. I can't do this. I'm just begging him to stop or at least explain to me what he was doing. That was the voice of Elissa Wall as she testified in the Warren Jeffs trial last year. She is the reason the polygamist leader is in prison today. Jeffs was convicted as an accomplice to rape by forcing Elissa to marry her first cousin when she was only 14 years old. And how did you feel when you heard that guilty verdict? It was very bittersweet. I felt that justice had been served. I was grateful that I wasn't the one that had to make that decision. But I knew that there was so many thousands of people that were praying that he would get off. And I knew that they would never understand. And I knew how bad it would hurt them. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And were you worried what they would think of you? Well, I knew that they thought of me as someone who had left their church and as evil. But I knew that I had to tell the truth. And for whatever their opinion is of me, then I just want them to know that I still love them very dearly. Well, at the age of 17, Elissa escaped her marriage and the polygamous sect with her boyfriend Lamont. So how'd you get a boyfriend in there? [LAUGHTER] It was a miracle. I had been married for a while. And it had been a very hard couple of years. It had gotten to a point where I was living-- I would sleep in my vehicle. And one wintry cold night, he helped me change a tire out in the middle of nowhere. And he started to kind of investigate my situation and-- How did you get it out in the middle of nowhere because I'm thinking that you're all in a compound kind of situation. Well, the town we lived in southern Utah on the border of Arizona is-- yes, it's all FLDS that are there. But there's not a fence around it. It's not nearly as secluded as this. Yes, it's kind of in the middle of a desert. And so you can drive a half a mile, and you're considered in the middle of nowhere. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And so it's not necessarily a compound like they have today. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. So were you sleeping in your car? Are you allowed to work outside of the compound? Can you mingle with other people who are not of the sect? It's definitely frowned upon. Some do work outside, especially the men. The men work on the outside. But for the girls, for myself, anyway, I did most of my work inside the city, the town that we lived. They had a restaurant and different things like that that was owned and operated by the members in the town. OPRAH WINFREY: OK. All right, so you met Lamont. He helped you fix a tire. ELISSA WALL: Yes. And some woo-woo started. Well, it was a friendship for a long time. And I was coming out of a very, very intense relationship with my appointed husband. And it was-- I on-- It was fate. It was a higher power working in my life to answer my prayers. So Elissa and Lamont are now married and have two children. Lamont also grew up in a polygamous family and says even though he left that he's not against plural marriage. No? I don't think the issue is plural marriage. I think in a society that we live in where people can make their choices as adults, they should be able to make those choices. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. Where the problem comes in is when you're abusing and forcing girls that are definitely not old enough to make the choice for themself into a plural relationship. And then you try to hide that relationship. So your opposition is that-- clearly, what you've stated is children being forced to marry-- Absolutely. OPRAH WINFREY: --as Elissa was at an early age. Absolutely. OPRAH WINFREY: But say, would you be opposed to taking a second wife? I personally would. Yeah, I wouldn't. It's not for me. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. But wouldn't judge somebody else who did. But I'm not going to judge someone else who truly believes that's a tenant of their religion. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. If he wanted to take a second wife, how would you feel about that? [CHUCKLING] I personally could not live in plural marriage. I've seen it happen. And I'm not too sure I could do that. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. It's just for me personally, it's really hard when you put women in a position where they have to compete for a man's love. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. OK. Elissa's older sister Teresa also testified against Warren Jeffs. Just two years ago, she escaped from a compound in Canada with her three children. And you left why? You know, I was extremely unhappy being there. But the biggest drive for me to leave was my three kids. I didn't want my two girls going through what my sister did. I didn't want them getting married at a young age. And I wanted them to have the education that kids don't get there. Are the children educated? No. They're-- That was a [SIGHING]. - I got an answer for that. - What is that? Not traditionally. They're not traditionally educated like what you would see in a public school here. OPRAH WINFREY: OK. They have their basics-- mathematics, spelling. But it's mostly a religious education. And they started homeschooling or priesthood schools where the agenda or the curriculum that was taught was completely based on religious teachings. LISA LING: But FLDS teachings. Yeah, or FLDS teachings. Absolutely. Mm-hm. So did you think growing up being raised in that environment that what you were experiencing was normal? Did you know that there was another life? I didn't know there was another-- OPRAH WINFREY: Another way of-- No, I had no idea there was another-- I only knew what I had been taught to believe and what I had lived all my life. I mean, it was all I knew. And I had no idea of what the outside world was like. OPRAH WINFREY: Mm-hm. And so was it a shock to you? Yes, it was very hard to adjust into what we would say the real world is. What about it was hard for you, too, Teresa? What was hard? Oh, you know, definitely seeing my kids go through this huge cultural change, that was really hard. But, you know-- OPRAH WINFREY: Well, you all came out and redid your hair, I see. ELISSA WALL: [LAUGHS] [LAUGHTER] You know-- Everybody came out and got rid of those hairdos. [LAUGHTER] You all came out and went straight to the beauty parlor. [LAUGHTER] It's a completely different world. It really is. OPRAH WINFREY: Yeah. It's like taking someone from Mars, sticking them on the real world, and saying, OK, live.

Ad Х
Ad Х