It takes a lot of courage to stand up for oneself, but it’s a whole new ballgame when that means standing up to an entire part of your church. And in Rachel Jeffs’s case, things became increasingly complicated because the leader of that sect was her father, Warren Jeffs.
Most people might recognize Warren’s name after his highly publicized imprisonment for sexually assaulting 12- and 15-year-olds. He is the leader of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — a denomination of the Mormon church that has since been condemned — and to this day has over 70 wives.
Now, Rachel, who escaped the cult, is speaking out amid the release of her new memoir, “Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs.”
On Friday, she sat down with Megyn Kelly for her segment of “Today” and revealed that aside from his two child brides, her father also sexually abused her when she was just 8 years old. She told Kelly that she was raised to believe that the outside world was entirely evil, but her father’s abuse left her wondering:
“I remember thinking, if my father is doing this and the world’s wickeder, are the world’s fathers even worse than this? I remember thinking, ‘I guess I should just be grateful that it’s only this bad.”
After two more years of sexual abuse, Rachel said she finally opened up to her mother about her father’s actions:
“I told my mother when I was about 10, after it was just getting so bad and I just felt like I can’t handle it anymore.”
However, even after being confronted by one of his wives, Warren continued to sexually abuse his young daughter.
Years later, when Rachel was 18, her father decided it was time for her to marry. Rachel told Kelly that despite not wanting to be married off, she was thankful her father didn’t choose an old man. Instead, she was arranged to be the third wife of a 25-year-old. She told Kelly:
“I was very, very scared. I was shaken.”
And the morning of her wedding, her father made things even scarier for Rachel when he asked her to try for a baby that night:
“The morning of the wedding, he said, ‘Rachel, come talk to me.’ And I went in his office, and 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.’”
She said that, at the time, she was beside herself after hearing her father’s request:
“I had a hard time, and I was like, ‘Do I have to?’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, I want you to do this, promise me.’”
Though she did end up having children with her FLDS husband, her new husband thankfully told her he wasn’t “in a rush” that night.
Although Warren has been locked up in prison, he still controls the church. Rachel told Kelly that one of their denomination’s biggest pillars of faith is that the leader of the church is a prophet who can do no wrong.
In 2016, the Deseret News reported on how Warren communicates with the outside world, aside from visitors, and noted that a former church security chief testified that Warren’s attorneys served as couriers for him:
Willie Jessop, a former church security chief who has renounced the group, said at the Phoenix trial that he received more than 100 coded letters taken out by Jeffs’ attorneys. They were decoded by his wives and then distributed to followers.
Clearly, Rachel’s father is still in a position of power. But Rachel, but the now free and happily married (by her own accord) mother, isn’t letting anyone keep her from telling her truth.
You can watch more of her “Today” show interview below: