Though reports indicate that polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs is still actively engaging with his followers from prison, a nonprofit that supports people leaving the lifestyle said that its clientele has quadrupled since the head of the sect was sent to jail.
Holding Out HELP, a Utah-based organization, serves as a haven for people who want to leave the polygamous lifestyle in general, but fear backlash from the community and don’t have the basic life skills to move forward, ABC reports. Many of the people the charity helps lack education and job training and have nowhere else to go for support.
“We have entire families coming out, and many individuals. They aren’t equipped to deal with the outside world,” Tonia Tewel, executive director, told ABC.
Since Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was sentenced in 2011 to life in prison for sexually assaulting two girls, the majority of his followers have remained committed to him and his teachings, but Holding Out HELP has seen the number of people seeking refuge from polygamy quadruple.
Kollene, 19, is one of nonprofit’s clients who’s working to start over after leaving polygamy.
The teen opened up about her experience on a December episode of “Sister Wives,” a TLC show that profiles a polygamous family. Holding Out HELP was featured to show the struggles people at the nonprofit face compared with the Brown’s lifestyle.
Kollene shared how she was abused by her father while growing up and is against polygamy entirely.
“I just felt like leaving my whole life, really,” she said in an interview.
As opposed to Kollene, another young woman who has sought support at Holding Out HELP said in an interview with TLC that she isn’t opposed to polygamy, but she is against the fear that is often instilled among those who decide to leave.
“I don’t want to live it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t support it,” she said. “I support my parents 100 percent –- because they’re good people.”