'Brainwashed Brides'

'Brainwashed Brides'
A family deals with the aftermath of escaping from a polygamist cult.

Dr. Phil clarifies that the polygamist cult he's addressing is not affiliated with the mainstream Mormon religion. "They call themselves the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, and broke off from the Mormon religion over 100 years ago," he says.

When Dr. Phil asks Fawn H. why she would consider returning to the cult, she says that she fears for her family. "I'm scared that I'll never see them again. You never know what [Warren Jeffs] is going to do. And I'm also scared because I kind of still believe in it a little bit."

Pointing out that neither girl attended school past the fifth grade, Dr. Phil asks, "Why was your education stopped at that point?"

"Because Warren Jeffs told everyone to put their families in private schools and not to mingle with the outsiders," Fawn H. explains. "We were just taught the history of our church and how to cook, how to sew, how to tend kids."

 

"Both of you say you were taught not to show emotion at a very young age," Dr. Phil points out. "How were you taught that?"

"If you showed emotion you were punished," Fawn B. says. "You would have to go without food for a day or two."

Dr. Phil addresses the girls' fears about leaving the cult. "You've been taught that if you leave the community — which you have — that you've traded your freedom for eternal burning in hell, right?"

Both girls say yes. "It scares me," Fawn H. admits. "I just sit there and think, 'What am I doing here? What if it happens tomorrow?'"

Fawn B. has the same concerns. "I believe I will be burned for eternity," she confesses.

"Why did you want to be here today?"

Fawn B. replies, "I need to know if this is worth all the pain. I feel like there's no hope. Why go on?"

"What do you think would happen to you if you went back?" Dr. Phil presses.

 

"I would be married right away. I'd start to have children. I'd have no life at all," Fawn B. says.

"I don't want to take the place of some other man that's been over here telling you what to think, what to do, how to feel, all of that ... That is not my place. But on the other hand, you're very young, and you're very naïve," Dr. Phil tells them. "I'm no preacher. I certainly do not hold myself out to be such. But I do believe in a higher power that I call God ... There's a lot I don't know as a layman. But let me tell you what I do know. I do know that God is a loving God. And that God is loving and giving and caring and nurturing, particularly of children. And God is a forgiving entity," he stresses. "This idea that if you assert this free will — these wonderful minds and hearts that you have — that you will forever burn in hell is just simply not right."Dr. Phil introduces Flora Jessups, who grew up in the same polygamist cult, and was forced to marry her cousin at 16. She escaped when she was 18, and was instrumental in helping the girls get out. "Tell me what your experience has been in fighting the authorities," he asks. "What do you hear from the authorities?"

She replies, "That we don't have the right to help these children. That they belong to their parents, and it's not our right to help them escape from the abuses."

Dr. Phil presses: "Why is Child Protective Services not intervening to protect children who cannot protect themselves? What do they tell you?"

"Reunification in the family unit is the most important thing, and that's the bottom line. It doesn't matter what the abuses are ... the problem is they're not taking services to the families."

"I have worked with CPS agencies around the country in all walks of what I've done. I find these to be caring, dedicated, devoted people that go home at night and hurt for the children that they work for," Dr. Phil says. "Something is going on because these are not just mindless bureaucrats who don't care."
Steve Hassan, a world-renowned cult expert and author of Combating Cult Mind Control, explains how brainwashing occurs. "People can be systematically broken down — indoctrinated through controlling information, controlling their behavior, controlling their thoughts, controlling their emotions — and made into obedient dependent slaves or clones of the cult leader," he says. "There are thousands of people who've been in other groups with other leaders who are prophets or apostles or messiahs or avatars where the same system of mind control is in place." Some may escape, but often don't have anywhere to turn. "Many people in the mental health profession are not trained on how to counsel people involved with destructive mind control cults."

Dr. Phil turns to his colleague and the chair of the show's advisory board, Dr. Frank Lawlis. "These girls are very much like prisoners that have been in prison all their lives," Dr. Lawlis observes. "When you get out of prison, you are actually more afraid of the freedom than you are of the prison because you know what's going on in the prison. They don't know what awaits them with their freedom."
Dr. Phil asks the girls, "How do you feel about being here now where you can say anything that you want to say, and ask anything that you want to ask?"

"I'm a little scared, because I was taught not to ask questions, just go with the flow, do what everybody else is doing," Fawn B. admits. "Now it's a big relief because I can talk about it and I need to talk about it."

Dr. Phil tells them, "What we're tying to tell you is that you are intelligent young women that have ability to think and make decisions for yourself. But the rub is this: You're still very young. Your brains aren't through growing yet so your ability to reason is sometimes not exactly what it might be when you're 30 or 35 years old, so you do have to rely on other people. And I want to give you a few guidelines that I think you should think about."

Dr. Phil suggests, "You need to be asking questions. You do need to be studying, going to church, doing different things, but it should always be with an open door. You should always be free to accept or reject what someone says to you. And it should always be open to close and careful monitoring by loving and caring people that have your best interest at heart." The girls should be wary of any activity that stresses secrecy, because if people are isolated, they can be controlled.
Dr. Phil praises Carl and Joni for the courage and sacrifice they've shown in parenting Fawn H. and Fawn B. He acknowledges that their other daughter, Melissa, is starting to feel neglected. "You need some time and attention as well, don't you?" he asks Melissa.

Melissa, who's sitting in the audience, agrees.

Dr. Phil assures the family that he, along with Dr. Lawlis and Steve, will offer support. Turning to the girls, he says, "So we want to provide you some guidance and we want to do it where everybody that is loving and caring about young people — and that's what this world is all about — can watch it, and see it, and weigh in with their opinions."