Rachel Jeffs, a daughter of polygamist FLDS sect leader Warren Jeffs, says he sexually molested her when she was as young as 8 years old, leading her to ask herself, “If my father is doing this and the world is wickeder, are the world’s fathers even worse than this?”
In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Megyn Kelly TODAY — more of which airs tonight on Dateline at 9 p.m. ET — the now-adult Rachel talked about growing up and eventually escaping from the sect led by the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).
“I told my mother when I was about 10, after it was getting so bad I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore,” Rachel says of her father’s sexual abuse.
“And I remember thinking, if my father is doing this and the world is wickeder, are the world’s fathers even worse than this? I remember thinking that I should be grateful that it is only this bad.”
After she later was pushed into an arranged polygamist marriage, Rachel left the church in 2015, she writes in upcoming memoir, Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult and My Father, Warren Jeffs, which goes on sale Nov. 14.
Her account of sexual abuse mirrors those of other children within the sect, who described the power imbalance that fed the authority of Jeffs, who was sentenced in 2011 to life in prison after his conviction on two counts of child sexual abuse.
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“I was very, very scared. I was shaken,” Rachel told Kelly of her arranged marriage.
“The morning of the wedding, he [Warren Jeffs] said, ‘Rachel, come talk to me.’ And I went into 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.'”
“I had a hard time, and I was like, ‘Do I have to?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I want you to do this, promise me.'”
Describing Warren Jeffs’ control, she said: “He would decide that someone was guilty of a sin, and then send them away forever, or send them to live alone for long periods of time. He sent me away from my kids for up to seven months at a time, and to live alone.”
“I was very angry, very angry at father and I was angry that he would do that to my kids,” she said. “And I felt that he was punishing me for what he did to me. Like he was trying to break me and make me feel like I was worse than him. And I wouldn’t let myself go there. I knew he had done wrong and I didn’t want to let him break me.”