Forced Into Polygamy in Public

Will witnesses intervene when they think a girl is being forced into polygamy?

ByABC News
March 16, 2009, 12:13 PM

March 17, 2009— -- Colorado City, Ariz., home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, seems like a town stuck in the 19th century. Women wear old-fashioned clothing and sport elaborately braided hairstyles, and the practice of polygamy -- having more than one spouse at one time -- is not uncommon.

The FLDS, which has been renounced by the Mormon Church for it's practice of polygamy, has been accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and much older men who already have multiple wives. Young women have spoken out about allegedly being forced into marriage when they were as young as 14, and wishing they'd had help escaping their fates.

So how would people react if they thought they were seeing a young girl being forced into a polygamous marriage against her will?

"What Would You Do?" headed west to see how people would respond when faced with the chance to save a young girl from a forced polygamous marriage. A few hours' drive from Colorado City, we set up hidden cameras at a family restaurant in Las Vegas called Hash House a Go-Go, just minutes from the strip, and hired actors to portray a polygamist family.

There was Frank, a man in his 60s, his wife, Sherry, the "head wife" of the family, and "sister wives" Laura and Kathy. There was another young woman as well, "Susan."

The actress playing Susan was actually 20 years old. But in our scenario, she was pretending to be a 15-year-old girl about to become Frank's very reluctant fourth wife.

As the family paraded into the restaurant, the heads of unsuspecting diners turned immediately. Not only did the family's fundamentalist attire attract attention, but Susan was crying as the family sat down to order food.

Restaurant patrons could hear her say, "I'm not ready to be married. I'm only 15."

The head wife, "Mother Sherry," told Susan that she should feel blessed. The other sister wives agreed, and reassured Susan that Frank was a good husband. But their words only upset Susan more. Then Frank took a commanding stance, telling Susan to stop crying and saying that she needed to be obedient. Susan only became more distraught.