What does it take to move on when your entire life has been controlled by your faith? Meet four inspiring women who all courageously left restrictive religious sects in an attempt to break free and chart their own course for their lives.
The FLDS, or the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints, has compounds in Canada and Texas, but the largest one spans a 10 mile stretch between Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. It is in this massive compound where an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 followers of the religion live. Flora Jessop was one of them until she escaped when she was 16-years-old and now she will stop at nothing to help others do the same.
“Your whole identity is based on church leadership.” -Flora Jessop
@katiecouric These stories are so terrifying & really make me think about how blessed I am to have my freedoms. These women define courage.
— Caela Provost (@Caela_Anne) June 4, 2013
Since Flora Jessop escaped the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints compound at age 16, after a childhood she says was filled with sexual assault and intimidation, she has helped 138 others get out. Among those she has helped include her sister Ruby, who just escaped in January. Ruby sits down with Katie for her first TV interview about her experience.
“It was hard to say it but I wanted out.” -Ruby Jessop
This episode of the @katieshow about cult like religions is sooo fascinating
— Sarah Kegerreis (@kegerbabyy) June 4, 2013
Like Flora and Ruby Jessop, Lauren Drain also felt like a stranger in the family and the faith in which she was raised – The Westboro Baptist Church. Lauren Drain says that when she spoke out against some of their teachings, the group and her parents turned against her.
“I was raised to have such a judgmental hateful outlook on the world.” -Lauren Drain
The Westboro Baptist Church is known for its protests at military funerals and its homophobic slurs. Lauren explains the meaning behind the church’s hateful practices.
“They deem it a Christian weakness to have compassion for other humans.” -Lauren Drain
@katiecouric that was very interesting and makes me very thankful for my parents
— jody silverstein (@myaspie) June 4, 2013
Leah Vincent says she felt ostracized for not following her family’s strict faith, a form of ultra-orthodox Judaism, and because of that, her parents stopped supporting her when she was 16-years-old.
“She said, ‘Leah if you try to go to college we are going to have you locked up’” -Leah Vincent
After being abandoned by her parents and while living on her own, Leah says she had a heartbreaking and terrifying experience.
“That was really the end of my life.” -Leah Vincent
Such a thought-provoking and compelling episode on Katie @katiecouric
— Alisha Lynch (@AlishaCLynch) June 4, 2013
Footsteps is the only organization in North America assisting ultra-Orthodox men and women who want to attempt to explore the world beyond their insular religious communities. Learn more about Footsteps by visiting www.footstepsorg.org.