Highlights from today's show, in case anyone missed it, or isn't in the broadcast area. Note: one of the guests is Steve Hassan who wrote the book Combatting Cult Mind Control.
Journalist Mike Watkiss of KTVK-TV, Phoenix, spent years documenting polygamy and alleged abuse in a fundamentalist religious society in Colorado City, Arizona. The cult believes that each man should have more than one wife, and each wife should bear as many children as physically possible. Women are instructed to wear modest clothes from another era, and are expected to be subordinate to men.
Marriages are arranged by religious leader Warren Jeffs, a man whom followers believe is a prophet of God. Jeffs is rumored to have up to 80 spiritual wives. A few years ago, he ordered children in his sect to stop attending public schools. Now they are taught in church-run charter schools. When group members try to flee, they are often pursued by Colorado City police officers, some of whom are alleged polygamists and loyal to Jeffs.
Activist Flora Jessups sheds light on escaping the cult. "By the time they're old enough to make this decision that they don't want to be here, they've got three or four kids. And in order for them to leave, they've got to run with children," she says. "I thought the authorities were supposed to protect the kids, and they don't. They're protecting the criminals. They're protecting the abusers."
Fawn H. (right) and Fawn B. (below), both 17, escaped a year ago. They now live with Fawn's brother, Carl, and his wife, Joni.
Fawn B. explains, "It's like someone programmed your mind. My mom even admits it. She says, 'Man, I wish I could just open your brain and brainwash you like I have been.' ... They teach that men are higher than women. Women should bow to them. Girls came to earth for one reason: to have children for their husband. I never learned any science. I was taught that there has never been a man on the moon ... I was taught that colored people were the devil."
Fawn H. adds,"I was taught that people from outside were not to be trusted and not to talk to them."
In tears, she continues, "One of the reasons I left is because I was afraid that Warren Jeffs would command the people to kill themselves, and I wouldn't be able to watch that, especially my family."
Both girls wrestle with shame and guilt, and think about going back. "Sometimes, I still feel that I'm going to burn in hell for leaving," says Fawn H. "I think about going back because I think about my future out here ... I don't really fit in."
Fawn B. is homesick. "I stay up at night and cry. I think, 'Will I ever see my brothers and sisters again?' ... I think about going back for my mom, I know she needs my help. She told me that she might have breast cancer."
They use the psyche that they put inside you to make you feel like you're dirt," he says. "After you leave the cult, you feel like you have this dark cloud on you and you're not going to have any enlightenment in your life. You're out of their world completely. It's like you're dead."
Carl says he was abused in the society. "I would get punishments for sneaking out and going roller-skating with my friends. I would get beatings or thumpings for doing things like that," he says. "I attempted to kill my father. I tried to make his car blow up. I hated him that much. I am very convinced today that I would be in prison had I not met my wife."
Activist Flora Jessups helped Fawn H. and Fawn B. escape in the middle of the night. "It absolutely is a cult. They use brainwashing. They use terror to control these kids," Flora declares. "I don't care what religion you are, it does not give you the right to rape children. Using the guise of religion to cover up the child abuse and the child rapes, no."
"I have a real big fear that they're considering going back because things get really stressful for them," says Joni. "If they go back, it's a failure."
The family turns to Dr. Phil for help.
Dr. Phil clarifies that the polygamist cult he's addressing is not affiliated with the mainstream Mormon religion. "They call themselves the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, and broke off from the Mormon religion over 100 years ago," he says.
Pointing out that neither girl attended school past the fifth grade, Dr. Phil asks, "Why was your education stopped at that point?"
"Because Warren Jeffs told everyone to put their families in private schools and not to mingle with the outsiders," Fawn H. explains. "We were just taught the history of our church and how to cook, how to sew, how to tend kids."
"Both of you say you were taught not to show emotion at a very young age," Dr. Phil points out. "How were you taught that?"
"If you showed emotion you were punished," Fawn B. says. "You would have to go without food for a day or two."
Dr. Phil addresses the girls' fears about leaving the cult. "You've been taught that if you leave the community - which you have - that you've traded your freedom for eternal burning in hell, right?"
Both girls say yes. "It scares me," Fawn H. admits. "I just sit there and think, 'What am I doing here? What if it happens tomorrow?'"
"I believe I will be burned for eternity," she confesses.
"Why did you want to be here today?"
Fawn B. replies, "I need to know if this is worth all the pain. I feel like there's no hope. Why go on?"
"What do you think would happen to you if you went back?" Dr. Phil presses.
"I would be married right away. I'd start to have children. I'd have no life at all," Fawn B. says.
"I don't want to take the place of some other man that's been over here telling you what to think, what to do, how to feel, all of that ... That is not my place. But on the other hand, you're very young, and you're very naïve," Dr. Phil tells them. "I'm no preacher. I certainly do not hold myself out do know that God is a loving God. And that God is loving and giving and caring and nurturing, particularly of children. And God is a forgiving entity," he stresses. "This idea that if you assert this free will - these wonderful minds and hearts that you have - that you will forever burn in hell is just simply not right."
Dr. Phil introduces Flora Jessups, who grew up in the same polygamist cult, and was forced to marry her cousin at 16. She escaped when she was 18, and was instrumental in helping the girls get out. "Tell me what your experience has been in fighting the authorities," he asks. "What do you hear from the authorities?"
She replies, "That we don't have the right to help these children. That they belong to their parents, and it's not our right to help them escape from the abuses."
"Why is Child Protective Services not intervening to protect children who cannot protect themselves? What do they tell you?"
"Reunification in the family unit is the most important thing, and that's the bottom line. It doesn't matter what the abuses are ... the problem is they're not taking services to the families."
"I have worked with CPS agencies around the country in all walks of what I've done. I find these to be caring, dedicated, devoted people that go home at night and hurt for the children that they work for," Dr. Phil says. "Something is going on because these are not just mindless bureaucrats who don't care."
, a world-renowned cult expert and author of Combating Cult Mind Control, explains how brainwashing occurs. "People can be systematically broken down - indoctrinated through controlling information, controlling their behavior, controlling their thoughts, controlling their emotions - and made into obedient dependent slaves or clones of the cult leader," he says. "There are thousands of people who've been in other groups with other leaders who are prophets or apostles or messiahs or avatars where the same system of mind control is in place." Some may escape, but often don't have anywhere to turn. "Many people in the mental health profession are not trained on how to counsel people involved with destructive mind control cults."
"These girls are very much like prisoners that have been in prison all their lives," Dr. Lawlis observes. "When you get out of prison, you are actually more afraid of the freedom than you are of the prison because you know what's going on in the prison. They don't know what awaits them with their freedom."
After the show, Dr. Phil commends the family for having the courage to talk about their ordeal. To Fawn H. and Fawn B., he says, "You two are not alone ... By talking about this, by airing it out, I think it can really help people." He assures the girls that he will give them continual support as they adjust to life outside the sect. "Whatever it takes ? therapists, pastoral counselors, programs ? we will give you every resource you can possibly imagine to help you decide what to do with your life and how to do it."
Both girls say they will not return.
Even though they've left the group, they should not give up on healing the relationship with the family they left behind. "Maybe meet them on neutral ground with your support system around," Dr. Phil suggests. "There are all kinds of ways that we can work to bridge this gap. And we'll do what we can to help bring that about."