Born into a polygamist cult, Rachel Jeffs was taught to believe the outside world was wicked. In fact, it was her father, infamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs, who fostered an evil environment. He sexually abused Rachel for nearly a decade; one of Warren’s 78 wives ordered her to eat her own vomit; and at 18, she was forced to wed a man she’d never met before, Rachel reveals. “In the church,” she tells In Touch, “I felt so lost.”
In late 2014, she made the courageous decision to run from the strict Mormon sect. After having five kids with Richard Steed Allred in their arranged marriage, Rachel, 33, knew she couldn’t let her kids endure what she had. “I could see that they weren’t going to be happy if we stayed,” says Rachel, who reveals details of her life in the sect in a searing new memoir, Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs. “I snuck out at night. I didn’t want to live that way anymore.”
Her life as an FLDS member was brutal. Though Rachel says she en- joyed parts of her childhood in Utah “fishing and camping with my brother and sisters,” her father began sexually abusing her at age 8. Married o at 18, her husband’s other wives (he eventually would have five) were “spiteful” and treated Rachel’s children harshly, she claims. Medical interventions of any kind had to be “life or death” situations — Rachel’s mother found a lump on her breast two years before Warren allowed her to see a doctor; she died from cancer in 2004. Rebellious acts, real or perceived by Warren, resulted in harsh punishments, and Rachel was sent to live away from her children for months at a time on three separate occasions.
But she finally got out. In December 2014, two of Rachel’s sisters, who had already left the church, picked up Rachel and her kids and took them all to stay with her maternal grandparents (polygamists, but not cult members). Warren, who had been convicted of sexual assault in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison, did not take kindly to her leaving. From behind bars, she says, he sent his brothers to follow her, but she resisted and eventually they left her alone.
It took time to adjust to life on the outside. “School was hard for my kids at first,” says Rachel, who settled in Idaho. “They couldn’t relate to their peers because they’d lived so differently.” But the struggle was worth it. Rachel is now a photographer, writer, and violin teacher and has a new husband, Brandon, a former cult member who is training to become a police officer. Though she often wonders how her siblings are doing, she says, “There has never been a second I wanted to go back.”
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