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Stolen Innocence (Library Edition): My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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You know, in my life I've read about many ugly vulgarities. Sometimes I really think that humanity is dead and our fellow (wo)man doesn't care about each other. But the book "Stolen Innocence" is genuinely the most repugnant and vicious story that I've ever read. Because of that, the book was also one of the most fascinating and detailed autobiographies that I've read.
Most of "Stolen Innocence" was all about the systematic and thought-out rape and sexual abuse of a minor. Ms. Elissa Wall was married off to a grown-man at the young age of only 14! The author describes how she begged everyone who would listen to at least give her "2 more years."
Once she was married she was the repeated victim of severe rape and sexual abuse at the hands of her 20 year-old husband, who, by the way, was also her biological cousin. And, I have to ask, what kind of sorry excuse, what kind of waste of human life would do such a thing to a little girl? Even wild animals aren't this barbaric and cruel. In great detail the author also courageously details how she begged her husband not to rape her.
However, Elissa was raped repeatedly because this cult, the FLDS, only considers girls their property! When Ms. Wall got the strength to speak to their "prophet," Warren Jeffs, this pig actually condoned what her husband did to her and even started blaming her! Can you believe that there is honestly a religion in the USA that would allow little girls to be married off and then forced into violent sexual abuse and raped, over and over again? It is disgusting and shocking and shameless, to say the very least. And I cannot believe this has gone on and continues to go on.
Elissa taught me that her story in and of itself isn't exactly unique. Girls are forced into sexual assault all the time and their "church," the FLDS, even condone this and promote this! What is unique about the author is that she had the courage to get out of this sulfurous-pit and she had the conviction to report her abuse to the authorities.
Like a prisoner sentenced to a life of hard-labor, Elissa tells how no one came to her rescue as she was trapped in this loveless marriage. No one. Not her mother, not her father, not her step-father. Nobody. Everyone was afraid of going against this Hitler-like tyrant, Warren Jeffs. Ms. Wall even states how he was like a god to them because this was all they were taught to believe. And that is probably what is fundamentally wrong with this cult. Because no one was ever allowed to think for themselves. Free-thought was not just frowned upon, it was reason enough to be expelled from this group. Thrown out like garbage. But why would anyone want to stay?
Even after all of the rape and sexual abuse, cased by her husband and Warren Jeffs, Elissa was still terrified of leaving. These passages of the book were both very sad and disappointing. But I suppose it's human nature. If this is all someone knows from the time they're born how could you expect them to leave without any trepidation? After all, even a dog comes back to his master who beats him because that's all he knows.
Finally, Elissa took to sleeping inside her truck at nights so she could avoid the violence that was sure to befall her inside her bedroom. The author thoughtfully details how her little truck wasn't at all comfortable, however she knew it was better than the complete and total hell she was sure to face if her rapist husband got a hold of her. This actually went on for months, too. Of course this isn't normalcy, but what do you expect a young girl to do who otherwise has zero options and is being victimized fairly regularly? As far as I'm concerned she coped way better than I could have. Most would have probably shot the S.O.B. between the eyes and went to jail happy, knowing that the world would be a better place with one less child-rapist.
Like "Escape," "Stolen Innocence" also recounts how the FLDS ruled every single aspect of the lives of everyone involved in this cult. The "church" owns the homes and land where each family lived and dictated what everyone had to wear and read. The cult even set up marriages. In fact, Elissa details how the cult was the only way someone could "experience salvation." The cult also had the power to tear apparent entire families. Pit son against father and mother against baby. Why? It was a way for these masochists to say: I am in Control. Elissa and all of the members of this cult were nothing more than slaves. But that doesn't excuse or condone what her rapist did to her in the least.
I also learned more about this cult, the FLDS. Elissa wrote about why it was "so important" for her to get married. One of the main tenants of this cult is to procreate and have as much children as possible. Of course it goes without saying that sexual education, contraception, abortion, even prenatal care and anything else that involved free-thinking and common sense (and intelligence) are totally off-limits.
Elissa even has the inner-strength to write about how she became pregnant multiple times as a result of her serial-rapist husband, Allen. I've always been raised to believe that the birth of a baby was a blessing. But how could anyone think that the rape of an underage teenager, by her adult cousin was a blessing? With zero prenatal care, this young child miscarried each time. You wanna know what the real "blessing" is? That's the blessing! Could you imagine bringing a baby into a world like that? A child should be brought into a world of love and acceptance, not fear and violence and shame. Perhaps this was the only circumstance (which was more or less by chance) which proved to be compassionate to Elissa.
Ms. Wall also explains with great triumph how she found real love and how, over time, she got away. Some of this portion of the book was very bittersweet and heartbreaking, though. Because Elissa was vilified by her soon-to-be-former cult. Elissa's rapist husband went running to Warren Jeffs when he couldn't control her any longer. Can you believe that Warren Jeffs actually blamed her again and even said that she should sacrifice her body (a human sacrifice?) Because of so much real d egradation and oppression, the truth inside this book really is stranger than fiction.
When Elissa writes about how she finally got away I was afraid for her safety because during these sections of the book it was the most suspenseful. But she found a way out of this hell. And she kept her sanity, too. Frankly, this would be enough to drive just about anyone crazy. But Elissa was so strong. Of course her brainwashed mother disowned her. It's so sad that her mother would side with the ones who raped her daughter, but I suppose that is common in this cult that rips apart families. And, Elissa was never bitter! She never used any negative words to describe any of the people who were the cruelest to her (Oh, I could think of a few.) She is wise beyond her years and such a compassionate person.
I can't recommend this book enough. If you're interested in women's issues, human rights issues or just books that describe adversity then "Stolen Innocence" is for you. BTW, this book also includes many never-before-published photos of life inside the FLDS. There are many color pictures inside the book and even some recent ones of Elissa and her current husband, her first Real Husband and her 2 precious babies. I also enjoyed this book because it was also the story of great hope. Anyone with any sentiency will cry tears of sorrow and tears of joy as you read this chilling narration.
What I also learned from this book is that the FLDS collectively raises their boys to be rapists, sexual deviants and sadists. And this same cult brings up the girls to be coconspirators, subservient wives and accepting victims. If that's not reason enough to take away all of these children and lock up their abusers then I'll never know what is. And, for the life of me, I don't understand why wasn't the FBI more involved with Elissa's case or with any of the recent cases involving this cult? It's not just a "domestic issue" and it's certainly not "religious prosecution." The rape of a child is a Federal Offense.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (a not-for-profit organization,) as of 2005 they classified the FLDS as a "hate group." This is in part because of the cult's teachings that non-whites are "less than human." IMHO any hate group, even one that hides behind the guise of a "religion" must be stopped. Bigotry and lack of education are nothing more than poison and what this book taught me the most is that the FLDS is just as dangerous as any other "terrorist group" because of that very reason. Maybe more so, because we don't even know about it, fully. There's a saying that comes to mind, "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." I tend to disagree. As far as hate groups such as the FLDS are concerned, the greatest trick they ever pulled off was convincing their followers that the devil does exist.
Perhaps its just the way the book is written, or something else, such as issues that people outside the FLDS wouldn't understand.
My main issue with Stolen Innocence was that it lagged big time. A big chunk of this book was very repetitive. In fact, the first 100 pages were good and the last 100 pages were great. However, the middle was just a repeat of what she had mentioned in the first 100 pages repeated throughout about 200 more. This book would've been way better if it had been a bit on the shorter side sans any repeating.
Stolen Innocence was also terribly written. I do understand that Elissa Wall isn't a writer and hence this book wasn't going to be some literary masterpiece, but I did expect it to be semi well-written. Shouldn't her ghostwriter have made it a bit more readable? And the editor really should have done a better job. There were glaring typos all over Stolen Innocence. I had to resist the urge to take out a red pen and correct them all. This was a FINAL copy, not an Advanced Reader's Copy and therefore should have read like one.
Again I state that I did find Elisa Wall's story incredibly heartwrenching and the way that the FLDS treats its women really pisses me off. I am incredibly happy that Wall managed to escape and survive that ideal and I think it's great that she's sharing her story. I just wish it would've been better written.