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'It's all fear based': Arizona woman opens up about FLDS community

Flora Jessop describes day-to-day life in a northern Arizona community.

PHOENIX — Going through old photos, Flora Jessop remembers what it was like growing up in a polygamist group.

"I have 28 brothers and sisters," Jessop said. "My dad was married to my mom and her little sister."

From 1969 to 1986, she and her family lived in Colorado City, Arizona. A small town on the border of Utah. The so-called promise land of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints. A radical religious group that separated from the modern-day LDS church. 

She talked about how the community was closed off to outside members and children going through strict teachings. "It's not brainwashing. It's indoctrination," Jessop says. From a young age, she said, "My sisters would sit around and talk about how they wanted to have 30 kids because that was your only worth as a female." 

Jessop recalls living in fear, "There is no compassion, no empathy; it's all fear based." She was constantly being told that if she and others did not obey their elders, they would be damned to hell.

That includes submitting to abuse. "I was sexually abused by my dad," Jessop says, which ran rampant. "I saw it all the time," she says. "It's that open and that prevalent...That's the sick part." 

At just 16 years old, she was forced to marry her cousin. After that, she decided to leave the community for good. "It wasn't easy," she says. "I had to run like hell." 

Now she and other groups help those who want to do the same thing. While it is difficult, she says it's not impossible.

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