Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sister Wives: Helping Polygamists That Walked Away

This week on Sister Wives, Madison, Logan and Aspyn took a trip to help an organization, Holding Out Hope, that helps people escape negative polygamist situations.

We heard the stories of some of the former polygamist community members like Suzanne. Suzanne came from the FLDS community. When she first arrived at Holding Out Hope, she was terrified. Steven, another helper at Holding Out Hope, was kicked out of the FLDS community for staying out late one night. Nicole, from the Kingston community, was told she had to be married at sixteen. She didn't, and broke away and married a man outside of the community. Kollene, 19, left the Kingston group of polygamists twice, the second time at age 17. She was beaten by her father, who was a leader in her community, all throughout her life. Kollene was very strong in her convictions against polygamy - she thinks no one should participate. It turns out that she was shunned almost her whole life in her community, which explains some of her negative feelings towards the polygamist community, along with her other very valid reasons.

Nicole shared terrible stories of young girls who were abused in her community. While the Brown children were horrified by this, they maintained that polygamy isn't the issue - it's the negative leadership in certain polygamist communities.

Next, we joined the Brown kids as they met a host family, which sponsors a polygamist who left the community. While at dinner with her host family, Kollene explained that in her family, her biological father only came along once in a while, and he was treated like a king while everyone else was garbage. Kollene told Aspyn she's dumb for wanting to continue in a polygamist lifestyle. Fortunately, she was able to stick up for herself, despite Kollene's strong personality.

The Browns invited the people they met to visit them in Las Vegas to experience their lifestyle. The former polygamists were understandably skeptical, although Nicole began to get sentimental about the good memories she had of her family.

On the way to the Brown home, Tonia, the leader of Holding Out Hope, worried about how the Browns would react to her. This made sense, since the Browns were concerned about her from the get-go. It turns out that the Browns didn't need to worry about Tonia - she said that she helps people both within and outside of the community.

Suzanne had a very sad story - her father left the family to repent (in his words) and a caretaker was assigned to her family. It didn't work out and her family went to a friend's place for help. The friend directed Suzanne's family to Tonia, and she helped them get away.

Nicole's story was sad. She said she hardly had a family, even though she had 27 moms and one day. She said her mom was so busy fighting for her dad's attention that she she didn't feel like she had a mom of her own.

The guests were treated to a tour of the Brown homes and to a picnic. The visitors seemed surprised to see family photos of the Browns as a whole. Their lives weren't really like that, with the moms working together as a cohesive team. On the picnic, Kody sat down with Kollene and they talked. Kollene questioned Kody about his parenting, and she seemed to loosen up a little bit as Kody spoke about how he's close to his children.

In the end, there was definitely no convincing Kollene that polygamy is a good thing, and that's completely fair. But I think the Browns did show her and the others that not all polygamist families are abusive. I'm not going as far as to say that some polygamist families are completely positive, but I will say that the Browns are certainly not toxic like the abusive families in other polygamist communities.

The Browns took Tonia and the others out for dinner in the last night of their visit. It seemed like a really enjoyable dinner. Everyone laughed, even Kollene. It was nice to see Kollene smile and relax a bit. After dinner, the teens had ice cream and talked. Kollene said before getting to know the Browns, she assumed they were fake and hiding something. The former polygamist community members were asked if the visit with the Browns made them consider polygamy again, and while the answer was no, the former polygamists did seem to respect the Browns. Even Kollene was pleasantly surprised by the Browns and how Kody acted as a father and husband. While she certainly isn't embracing polygamy with open arms, it was nice to see her understand that being a polygamist doesn't automatically make someone evil.

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