Recently, I’ve been becoming more interested of the topic of spiritual abuse, so I was intrigued when I found a memoir (my favorite genre) by Anna LeBaron titled The Polygamist’s Daughter .
From hearing LeBaron’s story, I am in awe of how she made it through such complex and recurrent trauma. Her mother was the fourth wife of a polygamist “prophet”. There were numerous families and children scattered across multiple states. Both parents were relatively distant and absent during Anna’s formative years, often leaving her in the care of her father’s followers who subjected the children to all sorts of mistreatment.
Though her father was a proclaimed “prophet” of the polygamist cult, he was involved all sorts of criminal activity; most notably, ordering hits on people who dared to leave the church.
In her story, LeBaron shares the complexities of trauma bonding such as how her own father put her in situations to be groomed and potentially sexually assaulted by men whom he had promised her to in marriage in exchange for financial resources.
Other traumas involved child labor, malnourishment, neglect, crossing the border illegally, frequently moving to flee possible legal involvement, and suicides within the cult.
Apart from being disowned by the family if they fled the cult, members of the cult also faced the very real fear of being murdered. LeBaron’s own brother was one of the followers responsible for carrying out hits on members who had fled the church.
While she later attended college, married, and built a family, LeBaron always lived in fear that someone from the violent side of her polygamist family would eventually find and murder her.
LeBaron shares how both her faith and intensive psychotherapy helped resolve the grief of many losses that occurred throughout her upbringing. After being diagnosed with clinical depression in college, she saw a therapist that was specialized in treating people who had escaped polygamy. The therapist used a “peeling onion” metaphor to peel back the layers of trauma, loss, and grief that LeBaron had repressed for so many years.
After marital discord and a divorce, LeBaron and her husband attended marriage counseling and were able to reconcile some foundational issues, which ultimately resulted in them getting remarried.
I’m always amazed at how resilient people can be despite the most atrocious experiences of trauma. I highly recommend The Polygamist’s Daughter.
Other posts in this series can be found here.
Thanks for reading!
Originally published at https://panoramiccounseling.com on February 28, 2021.