Polygamy guide aims to provide info to outsiders

“The Primer”: The manual details history and customs to help law enforcement and social workers

A girl who disappears from her polygamous community could be a “poofer,” slang for a new bride in an arranged marriage who has been hidden or moved to another state or country (as in, “poof, she’s gone”).

Wearing red clothing might offend members of a fundamentalist group who believe Satan wears that color to imitate Christ. Sister-wives are women married to the same man at the same time.

Members of one polygamous group say a divorced person has been “released” from marriage.

These factoids are more than just interesting trivia. They are part of “The Primer,” a new manual designed to help law enforcement and social services personnel assist victims of domestic violence and child abuse from polygamous communities.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office produced the manual with help from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, government agencies, nonprofit groups, fundamentalists who support plural marriage and people who have left the polygamous lifestyle.

“The Primer” – which was put online Thursday at http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/polygamy.html – includes a history of polygamy, a glossary of terms, descriptions of fundamentalist groups and their practices, training exercises and a list of resources.

Judy Kasten Bell, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Council, one of the groups that worked on the manual, said it is an important tool for service providers.

“It will help us reach out and respond to calls that are coming in from polygamous families,” she said.

Anne Wilde, a widowed plural wife and member of Principle Voices of Polygamy, a Utah group that represents polygamous families, agrees the manual will “build some bridges.”

The manual has a dual role, educating agency workers about how to deal with members of the culture and letting plural wives know the government is willing to help them with benefits and other services, she said.

“We want them to know there are people in the government who are willing to help them,” said Wilde, whose group helped develop the guide.

The manual will be updated as more contributors chime in, said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

“We received input from hundreds of people,” he said. “I imagine we’ll hear from hundreds more.”

Money for the project came out of a $700,000 federal grant to help domestic violence victims from polygamous and rural communities in Utah and Arizona.

Comments are closed.