You could be forgiven for expressing confusion about the premise of Escaping Polygamy: the new docuseries following three sisters helping others do exactly that. After all, who didn’t watch Big Love and immediately yearn for an inbuilt sisterhood that contained Jeanne Triplehorn, even if you’re not as good at sharing as her character is? But with rumours of incest and abuse circling around The Order, the group the series focuses on, Escaping Polygamy is about to give an entirely different view on the life. Meet the former polygamists behind it.
The oldest of the three sisters, Jessica was 14 when she decided to leave The Order: the group of Mormon polygamists that split off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Coming from a background that involved verbal, physical and sexual abuse, it wasn’t until Jessica faced marriage to her uncle (a union that would have made her the 42 year old’s third wife) that she found the courage to leave— though not before an abusive relationship could begin. Intermarriages and incestuous relationships are commonplace within The Order.
With help from her aunt, she escaped with her younger sister, Andrea. It was eventually determined their parents were unfit to raise them and Jessica was adopted.
She has since had to change her name a number of times in order to escape retaliation from the group, which she claims relies on harassment and intimidation techniques.
The third child of Daniel Kingston and his sixth wife, Heidi Mattingly Foster, Andrea was only 12 when she and Jessica made their escape, cutting off ties with the families they were forced to leave behind. A protective order was placed against the girls’ father for them both once they’d left. Though they were separated when placed into foster care, she and Jessica stayed close over the years.
Like many of the children and wives in The Order, Andrea was forced to work for the church members’ businesses, essentially without pay, from the age of nine. Cleaning offices, she was instead paid in ‘units’: a currency that is used in the businesses throughout the church, though you are forced to provide a reason before you may use it.
Among other claims of abuse that occurred within The Order, Andrea has spoken of the beatings children received and were made to cover up from the outside world.
The daughter of Daniel Kingston and his seventh wife, Shanell was 18 when she left The Order. Married to a cousin, she faced verbal and physical abuse from her husband for two years before she made the decision to leave and has since spoken about being raped. Afterwards, her father and members of the group spurned Shanell, with the exception of her mother, who continues to support her.
Since she has left the group, Shanell has remarried and had children.
Contacted by anonymous phone calls and texts and meeting in secret, the three sisters help women to leave the group who are terrified of recrimination.