On ‘Sister Wives’ TV Show Debating Polygamy

On ‘Sister Wives’ TV Show Debating Polygamy

A few months ago, I participated in a public debate on polygamy at UNLV with Kristyn Decker, Kollene Snow and Willy Steed.  On the other side was the Brown family of TLC’s “Sister Wives” fame.  Tonight, the episode is airing on TV.

I am an active twitter user and if you would like to ask me questions during the episode, you can ask me on twitter.  My username is @christinemariek

Although the Kody Brown family knew sweet Kollene and Willy, and obviously they were related to Kristyn Decker (who was Christine Brown’s aunt & the daughter of the former prophet of their group), I may have been an unexpected wild card. Not sure, we’ll see how it goes.

More about Kristyn

More about Willy

More about Kollene

More about Christine Marie

This was NOT about me:

My story was atypical.  Due to a perfect storm of circumstances in my life that intersected with an ecclesiastical impostor (who, in my opinion, was a cunning sociopath) and drove me down a path of horror, I knew that my experience was not representative of polygamy.  Therefore, during the debate, I didn’t want to focus on or keep referring to my story.

My Story:

If you care & want to know my back story in advance, I talk about it on Doris Hanson’s show here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd7BObZGEqU

See also: How Could I Have Believed This?

Questions & Answers are here:
http://christinemarie.com/q-a/)

unlv-exterior_2x

The UNLV Debate:

Instead of repeating my complex story, I thought it best to share what I learned from my experience, or better yet, research.

Let me start with this:

Victimization Issues

If you are living what you believe to be God’s will, you do not even know you are a victim.  Often times, even victims of human trafficking do not identify themselves as victims until after they have been removed and have had time to heal and understand.  See HERE.  Sometimes this can take years.  It’s not as simple as making the decision to “just get over it.”  How long does it take to literally rewire the brain, to reroute the neuronal pathway, to make sense of the world from an entirely different world view which you have yet to learn?

So when Robyn yelled at Kristyn during the debate, as it shows in the episode commercial -

“Don’t you dare make me into a victim!”

It seemed inappropriately defensive to me, out of place and ironic, especially since Kristyn wasn’t even doing that.

Witnessing Robyn’s dramatic response and how she projected her fears (of being made a victim) onto Kristyn me think that’s exactly what she was.  But of course, she couldn’t see it, let alone admit it.

When a woman of faith is hurting, suffering, or being humiliated, it can all be justified in the name of religion as – “going through the refiner’s fire,” “being tested like Job,” “going through the repentance process”  “developing humility necessary for Godhood,” “becoming worthy of eternal life”  or “overcoming jealousy and learning to live the higher law.”  If a woman believes this is part of God’s plan and that she deserves / needs this experience for her own eternal good, she certainly doesn’t see herself as a victim. She might question God, but still believe her suffering is part of God’s plan to refine her.

really-god

But what if I don’t want to ?

“Painting Us With Their Experience?”

Kollene Snow today, happy & free!

Kollene Snow today, happy & free!

That’s the name of the episode.  It’s not true though.  This was the theme of Kody’s comments – that we were painting them with a broad brush (generalizing all polygamy to be abusive.)  This was handy, but we didn’t do that.  I don’t believe that Kody physically abuses his wives or children.  I think their family is unique, and quite frankly, special.

But it is not true that I projected my experience onto them.  In fact, that is the very reason that I brought up research.  And in case I was challenged on the validity of it, I had packed a huge stack of peer-reviewed research and brought it along.

Kody repeatedly argued that I was “painting with broad strokes,” meaning that I was wrongly labeling all polygamy harmful. I said it was NOT “broad strokes.” I gave specifics.

I explained how the Canadian government was so liberal, they legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 (SEE HERE and HERE), and they legalized prostitution in 2012 (SEE HERE and HERE), but when the Supreme Court of British Columbia sought to overturn the ban on polygamy, after reviewing “the most comprehensive judicial record on polygamy ever produced in the history of the world,” Chief Justice Bauman declared that there was inherently too much harm to justify legalizing polygamy (SEE HERE and HERE).

This had nothing to do with me projecting my own bad experience onto them.  It had nothing to do with me at all.  Or them. These are just facts,

The Facts

In his decision, Chief Justice Bauman outlined some of the harms:

  • Women in polygamous relationships are at an elevated risk of physical and psychological harm.
  • They face higher rates of domestic violence and abuse, including sexual abuse.
  • Competition for material and emotional access to a shared husband can lead to fractious co-wife relationships.
Sometime Sister Wives Feel Like This

Sometime Sister Wives Feel Like Ripping Each Other’s Wings Off

  • These factors contribute to the higher rates of depressive disorders and other mental health issues that women in polygamous relationships face.
  • They have more children, are more likely to die in childbirth and live shorter lives than their monogamous counterparts.e
  • They tend to have less autonomy and report higher rates of marital dissatisfaction and lower levels of self-esteem.
  • They also fare worse economically, as resources may be inequitably divided or simply insufficient. [Decision, Item 8]

And there’s more.

Regarding Harms to Children

  • Children in polygamous families face higher infant mortality, even controlling for economic status and other relevant variables.
  • They tend to suffer more emotional, behavioral and physical problems, as well as lower educational achievement than children in monogamous families.
  • These outcomes are likely the result of higher levels of conflict, emotional stress and tension in polygamous families.
  • In particular, rivalry and jealousy among co-wives can cause significant emotional problems for their children.
  • The inability of fathers to give sufficient affection and disciplinary attention to all of their children can further reduce children’s emotional security.
  • Children are also at enhanced risk of psychological and physical abuse and neglect. [Decision, Item 9]

And there’s a lot more there as well.

Supreme Court of British Columbia
Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, 2011
BCSC 1588
For a more exhaustive list of documented harms, please visit


http://stoppolygamy.com/court-decision-on-polygamy/

The Verdict Was In

Polygamy was “inherently harmful” even in the absence of overt abuse, and it was fueled by the imbalance of power, manipulation and psychological abuse.  Those were not MY WORDS.  I was sharing the findings of an impartial government’s legal referendum after hearing from witnesses and exhaustively analyzing the research from experts on both sides of the polygamy debate.

These are just facts that have nothing to do with Kody, the Brown family, or my unique situation.

willy-steed

Willy Steed’s Story was Featured in ABC’s “Breaking Polygamy” and on 20/20′s “Project RunAway”

At the debate the Brown’s said being open and embracing of those families who want to live polygamy will result in these families feeling less likely to separate themselves into their own isolated communities.

Kody explained that their family should not be treated like criminals just because other men in polygamy have abused their wives and children.  We get this.  Kody said they should have the right to live as they wish as long as they are not hurting anyone.  We get this too.  But laws are not made for the exceptions.

And most families in polygamy are not like them.

Kody’s rationale was that if all families could be allowed to live polygamy openly and publicly without fear, people would not retreat into isolated groups and there would be less abuse.

The Problem With Kody’s Logic | When You Legalize Exploitation, Harm Increases

TFK_0120The other point I was able to make in the debate is that when countries legalize the exploitation of women, the harm increases.

Here’s an example. When they legalized prostitution in Amsterdam, New Zealand, Australia and Germany, the rationale of those lawmakers was similar to that given by Kody.  The theory was that if people are no longer afraid to report abuse, the secrecy and isolation will go away, and harm will decrease.  It’s a lofty objective.

But it doesn’t work for prostitution, and so far decriminalization has only increased the harm, as we have learned from  Short Creek.

If you’re interested, you can read more  HERE  and  HERE

(I’m sorry if this seems like an offensive comparison… the commonality is the “victimless crime among consenting adults” concept.)

The Myth of the Victimless Crimes

Millions of people mistakenly believe the legalize-it-and-abuse-will-go-away theory.  Herein lies the rub.  Wherever there are legal, “safe” prostitution houses run by law-abiding entrepreneurs, there is an expansion of the illegal secret brothels filled with trafficked women and girls, both foreign and local, run by law-breaking predators and socipaths.  Where predators feel safer to prey, victimization increases and the abuse will still stay hidden regardless of legalization.

In July 2012, Brenda Zurita published a research report for Concerned Women for America.  She spelled out what happens when the exploitation of women through prostitution is decriminalized.  Here’s a clip:

—————

“Those who advocate decriminalization have much to learn from those countries that  have actually tried decriminalization or legalization.

After legalization in Victoria, Australia, there was a 300 percent increase in illegal brothels. The Dutch saw an increase in trafficking victims from 716 in 2007 to 809 in 2008; almost 40 percent of those victims were Dutch girls pimped out by their boyfriends.  The increase in victims continued in 2009, with the number at 909, and was  up to 993 by 2010.  Approximately 63 percent of the estimated 400,000 prostitutes in Germany are migrants, meaning German women do not want to prostitute, so they have to bring in women from other countries, an environment ripe for sex traffickers to exploit. In 1995, Spain decriminalized prostitution.  By 2008, Spain’s Equality Ministry said 80% of prostitutes in Spain came from places including China, Romania, and Latin America — many coerced by gangs.

Read her report and see the sources HERE.

The moral of the story is that legalizing exploitation increases harm.

—————

Rejected by the Browns, Ouch!

Tolga KatasAfter the debate, I was hoping to invite the women of the Brown family to come to our Las Vegas studio for a super-fun, creative photo shoot, something that would have been modest, retro and positive, but Christine Brown immediately rejected my offer.  Without hesitating she said something like, “No I don’t think so, we’re just on two different tracks.”

FYI – My husband is fashion photographer Tolga Katas. He has a waiting list of magazines and women who want his photos or dream of being photographed by him.  I was surprised and confused by Christine Brown’s response,  so I tried to clarify.

“You mean you can’t have a photo shoot done by someone who has different beliefs from you?”

In my happy world, people can have different views and beliefs and still be friends. That’s freedom.

Christine fumbled for words and it was a really uncomfortable moment for me.  I even blushed, looked at the camera guys filming me and said, “Well, that was awkward.” I felt like I was in junior high, and a group of girls rejected my invitation to be friends because I didn’t have the same beliefs or skin color.

What Happened to Being “Open and Embracing?”

After all this beautiful talk about how being open & embracing to polygamists would help create transparency and prevent abuse, I was confused for a bit. Then questions and realizations started washing over me in waves – like maybe Christine Brown saw me as an enemy, or someone who threatened her “lifestyle.”   (After all, I am an abolitionist.  Among other things, I actively try to help lawmakers realize how certain religious leaders employ psychological terrorism to benefit themselves, and how religion can be used as a tool of human trafficking. ) OK, duh, if course I understand that.

Christine Marie Katas

Christine Marie Katas

Maybe their prophet or Bishop or Kody told the wives in advance that associating with this particular non-believer was off limits.  Or maybe I was just too evil, too tainted.

But here’s what I realized.  The moment Christine Brown shut the door to my offer, in my mind, the Brown’s entire argument about how decriminalizing polygamy would create an openness & transparency that would stop isolation & abuse from happening – just flew out the window, fell to the ground and buried its head in the mud.  They want the world to be open and embracing of them, but they don’t return the favor for people who are different?

They just proved my point.  Not that I blame them actually.  I remember feeling exactly the same way about people who challenged my beliefs, once upon a time.  And if I wouldn’t have had an experience from hell, maybe it’s true that  I might have actually been happy because I thought I was serving God. Quite frankly, I might have even been sitting on the other side of the debate today.  So I understand. They are just protecting the sacred things they believe.

I wanted to be friends.  They don’t. My door is still open.  If their answer remains a big fat “NO THANK YOU,”  it’s no big deal for me.

But they also closed the door on associating with Kristyn Decker, their own family member, for the same reason.

kristyn-book-cover5

Something in the Brown’s religious mindset will not allow them intermingle with “apostates” – even if they were previously beloved family members. I remember that kind of thinking, so how can I judge them or be upset?

But I don’t consider that freedom either.

The elect and chosen people of God must associate with others like them.  Whites and blacks cannot intermarry.  Gay marriage is forbidden, there are different rules for men and for women, and the list of policies and restrictions goes on.  It’s so very legalistic, and maybe this will evolve, but I can’t help but worry about them. Christ was about loving and forgiving one another.  Perfect love casteth out all fear, remember?  Christine Brown wouldn’t come out of the bathroom for ages because she was afraid to see Kristyn.   Kristyn was filled with excitement, hope, anticipation and good will at the thought of seeing and hugging her neice Christine.

There was no antagonism or attacking going on, at least from our end.  There was no hatred, no name-calling, only love and hope and offers for friendship. All four of us wanted to go to dinner with them afterward.  We were open and embracing. Not the other way around.  I guess they were really afraid.

IMG_0295

AUB Polygamy Headquarters, where Kristyn Decker is no longer welcome

Is Fear Really Freedom?

The Brown family is unique, but even they have their walls of fear.  Legalizing polygamy will not change this.  Nothing will stop true believers from isolating themselves, or gathering the righteous, like-minded people together so they can better follow their religion.

But if the Browns, (the best example of living patriarchal polygamy on the planet), do so because they follow a religion that requires it, remember that it is this same religious mindset that calls for them to shun the disillusioned members, separate themselves from those who have a crisis of faith, cover their ears and discredit former members when they speak about their painful truths, and separate themselves from those who question their way of life.

The whole shunning thing is the epitome of kicking a person when they are down, pouring salt in a wound or adding insult to injury – multiplied by the former value of your soul.  When the members of the AUB or other polygamist sects abide by this policy of shunning wounded defectors, then all members are aware of the painful consequences that they too might face if they do not tow the line, or if they maintain a loving relationship with someone who is speaking out about their own bad experience. That must be a terrifying thought to the members of the sect, hence, people like sweet, mild-mannered Kristyn Decker become reframed as people to fear. T

Is that really freedom?

I think the Brown women are extraordinary women on many levels, but they are indoctrinated, as I once was, and though they might be happy in their marriage, I hardly consider them free.

I credit and honor these women for all the things they do so very well, for raising incredible children, for being kind to one another no matter how difficult it is, for trying to make a difference in the world in their own way.

But let’s call a spade a spade.  Religiously-mandated polygamy is a tool of manipulation and in most cases, it’s harmful.  Most families are not like the Browns.

And laws are made for the majority, not the exception.

 

That’s my two cents.

—————————————

 TALK TO ME

I’d love your feedback.  I get tons of visitors to my site, and lots of private messages, but now my goal is to get more of you to comment publicly ON THIS SITE.

This will help me know what to write about next, where I can evolve in my thinking, what we can learn together, etc.

You can tweet me questions tonight on twitter: @christinemariek

Add me / follow me on Facebook here HERE

Check out my emerging pop star daughter HERE

(Shameless plug from a proud mom, sorry!)

Subscribe to my site (on the right!)

See also www.voicesfordignity.com

 

Tolga and Christine red carpet

Tolga and Christine. Monogamy rocks.

 

Recommended Reading:

Plyg’s

Prophet’s Prey

Fifty Years in Polygamy

God’s Brothel

 

 

Comments

comments

About Christine Marie

I’m a geeky, bumbling, puppet-loving former kindergarten teacher with an MBA who thrives on child-like creativity, positivity, productivity & fun. I’m married to an extraordinary, eccentric genius from Istanbul who creates software, music, videos & photos. We live playfully in a fascinating world full of entrepreneurs, geeks, hackers, artists, producers, models & people trying to stir up trouble, break the status quo, live life to the fullest or make a difference in the world.

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  1. Summer
    September 17, 2013 at 1:36 am

    “Religiously-mandated polygamy is a tool of manipulation [...]”

    You ended this with a very strong point. I came here from a blog where someone wrote about what actually happened at the debate from a first hand point of view and not what TLC showed. I was interested in hearing more from all of the non Brown panelists and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw when I got here!

    I’m sorry for the way things unfolded for you at the debate. I loved reading your side of things and thought your points were presented from a place of fact which makes arguments stronger. Please never stop speaking out. Your story and your message is much appreciated.

    Always keep that offer to the Browns open because even if they reject it, that kindness will forever remain in their minds.

  2. September 17, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you so much Summer, your comment means a lot to me. Something I needed to here. And I think that’s good advice too.

  3. Terrasola
    September 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Insightful and truthful. Please keep speaking your truth.

  4. Madelyn F.
    September 19, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Very articulate. You make your points very well, and in ways that I never thought of before. Seriously everyone should read this.

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