Saturday, December 11, 2010

Polys in Court - Week 2 - Dr Lawrence Beall summary

from transcripts of Thursday Dec 2nd -
The court session began with a telephone conference call. One of the witnesses who's video testimony has been posted on the internet was calling to tell the court why this was upsetting for her. Justice Bauman had not yet rendered his decision on the BC AG's application to have publication banned of those videos.

Dr. Lawrence Beall then took the witness stand. He is a PhD of Psychology with a clinical practice in Salt Lake City. He has been a witness in 5 criminal cases with regards to polygamous relationships and written a paper called "The Effects of Modern Day Polygamy on Women & Children" that is to be published in an upcoming journal issue on polygamy. He has treated adults, adolescents and children who are recovering victims of domestic violence, vets from Iraq & Afghanistan, victims of gang violence, refugee trauma and torture victims. For the purposes of his paper and his expert witness in these proceedings his counseled 14 men and 16 women in a group of 30. 8 of the women were FLDS from FLDS communities in Utah and Arizona. He also counseled 11 more men and interviewed 6 more women from Hilldale/Colorado City area. He was able to do some background research of vital statistics data and correspondence in the Yearning for Zion Ranch.

From this Dr. Beall was able to say that the FLDS has a stronger emphasis on being saved by polygamy which is indoctrinated in the educational system and that there is a tighter network of control then found in non-FLDS homes. He said that there was a mental and emotional impact of underage girl marrying an older man. He noted a lot of travel between Short Creek (Hilldale/Colorado City area) and Bountiful mostin in young girls who were potential marriage partners.

A common diagnosis for the people in this survey was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
which is where a psychologically traumatic experience in the past presents now usually in flash backs or nightmares. Memories of an event or events intrude on current functioning of the individual. This diagnosis was expressed in anxiety and depression in the women who shut down and internalized their anger as guilt and shame. The young men externalized it with anger and behaviour problems. The young men expressed a sense of unfairness as they were told to obey and be faithful and they would be rewarded with a wife but found themselves competing for wives with men who were much older and had more financial resources. Treatment was difficult because of their belief that mental health problems were a sign of weakness.

These people were taught not to question and this is key to an adolescent developing their sense of identity and critical thinking for adulthood. They were left with doubts about their own thinking and feelings and an inability to clearly state them, self-esteem issues, lack of ability to exercise judgment and make plans for the future. An adolescent's pre-frontal cortex is still forming and has insufficient cognitive capacity to make decisions like who to marry.

He discussed his discovery of sexual grooming in the communities which is a gradual relationship building that leads to a sexual content. The process involves increasing trust and affection; and a sense that this relationships is unique and special; secrecy and isolation of the victim from her support system;breaking down the victim's defenses with fear and guilt. All of this makes if difficult for the victim to say no when sex enters the picture and gives the illusion of consent. He said he would call this structured sexual grooming because it is endorsed by doctrine and teachers including her own parents. Treatment involved cognitive restructuring to get passed the indoctrination and conditioning. It also involved teaching basic life skills for survival in the general population community.

The description of sexual grooming sounds like what a battered women or child sexual abuse victim experiences in a monogamous setting as well. The sense that you somehow brought the abuse upon yourself and thus consenting or participated willingly feeds the fear and the guilt. He only hits me cause I'm a bad cook and should learn to do better. etc. Indoctrination doesn't need a prophet to be effective. The battery of the self-esteem and sense of being trapped doesn't need polygamy either. Both are found too frequently in monogamous households.

Barriers to girls leaving FLDS communities were:
1. needing to be ready to flee with her children when a brief opportunity arose
2. needing to have set up a place to run to with support people to help her
3. needing to find work and get established with medical and social supports for herself and children in a new community that you were raised to see as threatening and dangerous.
4. resulting legal issues of a fight for child custody, support & access while still remaining safe from her husband

Barriers for young men leaving were similar but they don't have the issues regarding children. They also have some skills for the labour market that the women don't have.

I have to say that these barriers are also there and substantial for thousands of women and men across Canada who flee from abusive monogamous relationships every year. I myself had to flee from Ontario to BC to get away from a husband (monogamous) who didn't see that even divorce should interfere with his control, treatment and rights over myself and our children. All of those barriers are contributed to by the average person's disengagement with the domestic abuse that is rampant and unacceptable all around us. Let's have zero tolerance for it and proper supports for victims and perpetrators in ALL relationship structures - monogamous or multi-partnered. NO ONE should have to live like that.

Cross-examination of Dr. Beall revealed that he had not familiarized himself with individual notes of these 30 people and was commenting from the memory of interactions of several years ago as HIPA (a US federal law that says you can't disclose information based on clinical notes without the written consent of the patients). His memory of statements made about these recollections during testimony for other cases was questioned and found failing several times. His generalizations were highlighted as being likely from opinion more than stated fact. He stated that he knew nothing of the FLDS before counseling his first of many FLDS clients and yet acknowledged that he was LDS himself. The fact that the majority of the men in his survey were sent to him via an organization that is a primary party in the Lost Boys litigation in the US and that this organization paid for their treatment. His comments were with regards to comments made but some but not all of is survey group and no access to persons who were in the FLDS communities.

In redirection Dr. Beall indicated that he also has a Masters in Education and he opinioned that the education in the FLDS communities was inferior because of the narrow scope of approved education, lack of resources and lack of teacher training and students were not able to develop critical thinking.

Finally discussion of the day was around scheduling of closing statements and that looks like it may be in March.

On a personal note: I apologize for being behind on these summaries and will try to catch up on things this weekend. Thank you for your patience.

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