- NBC/”Megyn Kelly Today”
- Rachel Jeffs, the daughter of polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs, spoke out on “Megyn Kelly Today” about the sexual abuse she endured at her father’s hands when she was a child.
- Warren Jeffs is the self-described “prophet” of the FLDS Church, a Mormon fundamentalist cult that has been disavowed by mainstream Mormons.
- He was convicted in 2011 of child sexual assault and is serving a life sentence, though he continues to control the church to this day.
- Rachel Jeffs, who escaped the church in 2015, said her father began sexually abusing her when she was eight years old.
The daughter of the polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs spoke out on “Megyn Kelly Today” about her upbringing as a member of the FLDS Church and the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father when she was a child.
Rachel Jeffs, who also details the abuse in an upcoming book titled “Breaking Free,” told Kelly in an interview that aired Friday that her father abused her “way more times than I can count,” starting with an incident that occurred when she was eight years old.
“Very shockingly, father started abusing me sexually, first presenting what a man looked like to me as a child, and then he started sexually abusing me as a young child,” Jeffs said. “It was so against his teachings, so against what he had taught us that I didn’t even know what to think, and I just felt terrible. I didn’t know why he was doing it.”
Jeffs said she eventually told her mother about the abuse when she was 10 years old, and though her mother confronted Warren Jeffs, the abuse continued. He would even bring her to bookstores and force her to look at pornographic images, Jeffs said.
“I just remember thinking if my father’s doing this and the world is wickeder, are the world’s fathers even worse than this?” Jeffs said. “I remember thinking, ‘Well, maybe I should be grateful that it’s only this bad.'”
Eventually, when she grew older, Jeffs’ father arranged for her to marry a 25-year-old man who already had two wives, and whom she had only met one day before their wedding. Jeffs said her father brought her into his office on the morning of the wedding and told her to ask her husband to give her a baby later that night, which she said she didn’t do because she didn’t feel ready.
“He said, ‘I want you to ask for a baby tonight. I want you to ask your husband for a baby tonight. I want you to get close fast.’ I had a hard time, and I was like, ‘Do I have to?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I want you to do this. Promise me,'” Jeffs said.
Jeffs said although her husband was kind, their polygamist marriage was “difficult.” There was intense rivalry between the “sister wives,” which only heightened over the years as more women joined the marriage, she said.
“A lot of jealousy and bad feelings. You want your husband to be your best friend, but you feel as if he’s always turning against you,” Jeffs said. “At the same time, my sister wives did not enjoy me coming into the family. They felt like my husband loved me more than them, and so they treated me badly.”
When Kelly asked Jeffs about the nature of her sexual relationship with her husband, Jeffs replied that sex with polygamist men was “very much” a one-sided affair.
“I think that’s how polygamist men are, because they’re just so used to pleasing themselves. They’re like the king in the house and the wives are just their servants,” she said.
Warren Jeffs still runs the church from his prison cell
Warren Jeffs was convicted in 2011 on one count of aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl, and sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl, both of whom Jeffs claimed were his “spiritual wives.” He was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.
Yet Warren Jeffs has maintained his grip over the FLDS Church to this day, sending the members increasingly strict and bizarre rules they had to follow, according to Rachel Jeffs. While many of the rules concerned the members’ clothing and food, Jeffs said her father would also dole out punishments to members he believed had committed sins.
The punishment that pushed Jeffs over the edge – and eventually prompted her to abandon the church – was when her father sent her to live apart from her children for seven months because he believed that she had had sex with her husband while she was pregnant.
“The more I said I didn’t, the more he accused us,” Jeffs said. “And I felt that he was punishing me for what he did to me. Like he was trying to break me and make me feel like I was worse than him. And I wouldn’t let myself go there. I knew he had done wrong, and I didn’t want to let him break me.”