The 16-year-old girl -- pregnant for a second time and possibly suffering from three broken ribs -- who alerted Texas authorities to raid a polygamist compound wanted to escape and save her younger sister from the same fate, court documents have revealed.
The girl, whispering into a cell phone late at night so she would not be overheard, was apparently terrified to be caught. But by the end of her final phone call to a family violence shelter, she broke down crying and tried to get counselors to forget what she had said.
"She began crying and then stated that she is happy and fine and does not want to get into trouble and that everything she had previously said should be forgotten," court documents stated.
It is a picture of a young cult member afraid of being caught talking to the outside world and also afraid of the outside world.
Police are still trying to determine whether she is one of the 416 children taken from the Yearning for Zion Ranch this weekend.
In a series of hushed calls from a cell phone that wasn't hers, the girl told family violence counselors how she had been forced into a "spiritual marriage" with a 50-year-old man who had six other wives and would force himself on her sexually.
She said the man "would beat and hurt her whenever he got angry." When he would choke her or hit her in the chest, "another woman in the home held her infant child," the court documents stated.
Carolyn Jessup, a former wife of the leader of the group, who escaped with her eight children years ago, explained that this kind of abuse was the norm on the same compound where she used to live.
"If he's abusing one of their sister-wives, they view that as, well, she's really wicked or evil, he needs to do that or she'll corrupt our family. They're very supportive of it," Jessup said.
The court affidavit said the teen told authorities that "… on a previous occasion, the man had beaten her so severely that it resulted in her having several broken ribs." She said the most recent attack occurred Easter Sunday.
The frantic teenager told counselors she was the mother of an 8-month-old infant and she believed she was several weeks pregnant with another child. Documents describe her pleading for help, explaining "she was being held against her will at the YFZ Ranch and church members had told her that if she tried to leave, she will be found and locked up."
She had plotted an escape from the ranch by faking an illness so she could be driven to a hospital in the "outsiders' world," but her plan was foiled when ranch leaders told her that "she would not be allowed to take her infant child with her unless the child was also sick," the documents stated.
The affidavit also suggests that the girl made the phone call in part because she wanted to spare her younger sister. She told counselors that her parents, who did not live at the compound, were preparing to send her 15-year-old sister to the ranch.
Jessup and the court indicated that the frightening conditions endured by the teenager is the norm at the remote ranch where girls are taught that refusing to have sex with a man is a sin.
"I was taught when I was very young by my grandmother that there were a number of spirits chosen to come as my children and if I deprive them the right to come, that I would be condemned for it. The way they view the concept is if a man views a wife worthy to have a child with, and she rejects him that's a sin unto death," Jessup said.
The court put it in more legal terms.
"A pattern and practice ? in which young minor female residents are conditioned to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men," is how one investigator described the court's findings of life on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in an affidavit.
"Once a female child is determined by the leaders of the ranch to have reached child-bearing age [approximately 13-14 years old] they are then 'spiritually married' to an adult male member of the church and are required to engage in sexual activity with such male for the purposes of having children."
Investigators said they found a number of teenage girls who appeared to be pregnant minors, as well as young girls with infants. They said some of the children they interviewed couldn't identify their parents or mentioned several adults as their parents.
The affidavits describe the children and women as indoctrinated to live in a state of fear, and describe their beliefs that people outside their compound will hurt them, force them to wear makeup, have sex with lots of men and give them diseases.
"They have been taught their entire life that the outside world are agents of the devil, but they are chosen children of God. If the agents of the devil can hurt them and destroy them, he'll be able to destroy the work of God. They've been taught to be terrified of outsiders. Even for myself, growing up, I remember that fear," said Jessup.
"All the children have been safely removed from the ranch," said Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for the Texas Children's Protective Services.
Each of the 416 children will now be appointed a guardian and a lawyer.
"To have 400 plus at one time -- all hurting, all confused, all wanting -- and to be the guardian for those children is overwhelming," said Paulette Shell, a court-appointed advocate.
Attorneys for the polygamist church will be in court today to say their religious freedom was violated by the raid on the compound, but legal analysts say allegations of child abuse trump issues of religious freedom.
"I believe that the church lawyers will lose the hearing and the search warrant will stand," said Toby Kleinman, a lawyer who specializes in domestic violence and child abuse.