Escape

Erin Moriarty Reports On A Daring Escape From The FLDS And The Fallout That Followed

Child advocate Laura Chapman is not afraid to take risks. Nine years ago Laura rescued two teenage girls from an FLDS branch outside Salt Lake City, and she risked kidnapping charges and even death threats to do it.

"I could relate to them. I could see myself in them," says Laura, who was once herself a member of the FLDS community in Hilldale, Utah.

"My father had four wives, I have 31 brothers and sisters," Laura tells correspondent Erin Moriarty.

She was 18 when she was forced to marry a man she barely knew. "We had never kissed. We never had any kind of intimacy at all," she says. "So I knew what that's like for a young woman. It's a severely emotionally abusive experience."

Laura tried to be the dutiful wife, and before long she had five children. But inside she struggled as she watched young girls being married off to older men. "There were just things that happened over the years that my soul told me where wrong," she says.


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The last straw for Laura was when her own husband announced that in order to get to heaven he would need another wife. In fact, he had already chosen her: a 16-year-old girl.

"He told me that he married her," Laura recalls. "Tears ran down my face and he said, 'You look like you need a hug. Can I hug you?' And I said, 'Don't you ever touch me again and get the hell out of my house.'"

At 28 years old, Laura took her five children and left both her husband and the FLDS. With only a fifth grade education, she went to college, supporting her children on welfare and grants.

It was in 1999, when 48 Hours first met Laura living in a suburb of Salt Lake City and working as an anti-polygamy advocate. "What I went through to leave and get an education and raise five children, one with a handicap on my own is horrific. No girl raised in the United States of America should ever have those basic rights to an education or who she marries taken from her," she says.

So when Laura got a call begging her to help Sarah and Kathy, she couldn't refuse. "The girls said they had one week before their marriages would be performed. Sarah's mother was making her wedding dress," Laura remembers.

Because one of the grooms was said to be in his 40s, Laura first tried to get Utah children's services to intervene. "I was like, 'If 16-year-old girls are facing an arranged marriage in polygamy, can you help them?' He said 'Not until they've had unwanted sex with an older man,'" she remembers.

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