One Woman's 'Escape' From Polygamy

By the time Carolyn Jessop was 18 years old, she had been coerced into an arranged marriage with a stranger who was 32 years older.

Merrill Jessop already had three wives when he and Carolyn got married, but their relationship wasn't uncommon because she was part of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a cult run by recently convicted Warren Jeffs.

Now, she has written a book about her life in one of the country's most infamous sects and it's called "Escape."

Her dramatic first-person account details life inside the religious group that garnered national headlines.

Jessop, who was born and raised in the group, escaped with her eight children after 17 years of marriage.

She then became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS.

For more on her story, read an excerpt of Jessop's book below.

Early Childhood

I was born in the bitter cold but into warm and loving hands. Aunt Lydia Jessop was the midwife who brought me into the world on January 1, 1968, just two hours after midnight.

Aunt Lydia could not believe I'd survived. She was the midwife who had delivered babies for two generations, including my mother. When she saw the placenta, she realized that my mother had chronic placental abruption. Mom had hemorrhaged throughout her pregnancy and thought she was miscarrying. But when the bleeding stopped, she shrugged it off, assuming she was still pregnant. Aunt Lydia, the midwife, said that by the time I was born, the placenta was almost completely detached from the uterus. My mother could have bled to death and I could have been born prematurely or, worse, stillborn.

But I came into the world as a feisty seven-pound baby, my mother's second daughter. My father said she could name me Carolyn or Annette. She looked up both names and decided to call me Carolyn because it meant "wisdom." My mother always said that even as a baby, I looked extremely wise to her.

I was born into six generations of polygamy on my mother's side and started life in Hildale, Utah, in a fundamentalist Mormon community known as the FLDS, or the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Polygamy was the issue that defined us and the reason we'd split from the mainstream Mormon Church.

My childhood memories really begin in Salt Lake City. We moved there when I was about five. Even though my parents believed in polygamy, my father had only one wife. He owned a small real estate business that was doing well and decided it made sense to use Salt Lake as a base. We had a lovely house with a porch swing and a landscaped yard and trees. This was a big change from the tiny house in Colorado City with dirt and weeds in the yard and a father who was rarely home.

But the biggest difference in moving to Salt Lake City was that my mother, Nurylon, was happy. She loved the city and delighted in having my father home every night after work. My dad was doing well, and Mom had enough money to buy plenty of groceries when we went to the store and even had some extra for toys.

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