Before watching ESCAPING POLYGAMY last night on LMN, viewers had to have been wondering, “Why don’t they just leave?” But, after watching last night’s episode, many viewers had to be asking, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?”
ESCAPING POLYGAMY is exactly what the name suggests: People trapped in the polygamous lifestyle escaping from it. And, escape they must, because just leaving is not an option for those in the sect featured on the show, a polygamous group known as the Order.
This new documentary series follows the work of three sisters who left the Kingston clan, a secretive polygamist group based in Salt Lake City, Utah known as the Order, as they help both loved ones and strangers break free from polygamy. Andrea, Jessica and Shanell – who, over 10 years ago, bravely escaped polygamy as young girls – now help other young men, women and children to escape from the abusive polygamous lifestyle in which they were born and raised, and manage their new lives on the outside.
Watching footage of a church service covertly taken by what must be a current member of the Order, as “Outsiders,” as all non-Order people are referred to, are not allowed in the services, was absolutely terrifying. It was heartbreaking, to be sure to see small children pledging their loyalties to the Order leader, Paul Kingston, and to see others brainwashedly reciting why family must be cut out of their lives when they choose a different way of life and escape.
And, above all, it was outrageous, seeing this go on and no one in a position of authority seeming to care.
- Read Order Member Fred Kingston’s story here on TVRuckus.
Last night’s episode depicted people wanting to leave, but being too terrified to act. There were marriages being arranged between minors and men decades their senior. These unions were often between relatives, and at least one of the marriages shown (between Daniel Kingston and his second wife) was between half-siblings. There are dozens of children between one husband and multiple wives, and former members indicated that many are simply neglected, as there are too many to even remember, much less care for properly. Wives are said to range from favorites to least favorites, like Shirley Kingston, who was shown to be living with all of her children in a falling-down building, at the order of her husband, Daniel Kingston.
How can all of this be presented on a TV show, but no authorities lift a finger to help?
It is hard to help people who do not want to be helped, of course. When Shirley Kingston had the opportunity to have the health department issue a notice, giving the owner of the building she and six of her children are living in 30 days to fix problems, Shirley decided to take the lesser option, just get a letter documenting the issues, which enforces nothing. She was scared that she could end up without a place to live–and that was, no doubt, a legitimate concern–but the bigger issue is this: Why does she have the option of keeping her and her children living in squalor at all? After going into a home that is clearly nasty and falling down, why do authorities just leave without another thought for the kids, if not the mother?
Jessica said she could remember being brainwashed as a child and speaking as those in the church footage did, pledging loyalty and rallying against the outside world. Most of those speaking were clearly minors, who will someday either continue down this brainwashed path as adults; may be kicked out as boys, labeled “competition” by older males, as was one former United Order (described as a “polygamous cult based in Arizona”) member featured last night; or will be forced to not leave, but escape.
“Escape” is the key word. At the end of this episode, viewers saw one young woman, an 18-year-old, Melanie (daughter of Daniel Kingston and his second wife), trying to leave the Order and her mother trying to force her to stay against her will. It was horrible. The police had to physically enter the home to get her out of the house. Melanie did not leave; she escaped. No one should have to escape one life to go to a new one. But, the brainwashing lifestyle that is forced polygamy makes escape necessary.
It is not so simple as just leaving.
And, it is a black eye on society that it is allowed to go on; maybe ESCAPING POLYGAMY can shine a light bright enough to bring it out of the darkness and onto the “to do” agenda of someone with the authority to help those who cannot help themselves.
We certainly hope so.
ESCAPING POLYGAMY airs on LMN on Tuesday nights at 10/9c.
Image: Courtesy of LMN, Used with Permission. Photo by RIVR Media. Copyright 2015.