Fawn Broadbent and Fawn Holm: The teens go on national TV and tell about “burning in hell” fears
Talk about getting real, as Dr. Phil might say.
Fawn Broadbent and Fawn Holm, who fled their polygamous community at the Utah/Arizona state line just over a year ago, received intensive counseling with a brainwashing expert this spring – thanks to the advice guru.
Dr. Phil – Phillip C. McGraw, the prolific self-help author, syndicated talk-show host and confidante of such stars as Oprah – aired a program about the two teens’ struggles on Tuesday.
Since leaving home in January 2004, the girls have battled both homesickness and fear they will burn in hell for abandoning their families and faith, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Led by Warren Jeffs, the church adheres to a 19th-century version of Mormonism that includes plural marriage. Anti-polygamy activists say underage girls are routinely paired, at Jeffs’ direction, with older men.
The girls left their homes in January 2004, saying they feared such marriages and resented the limited educations they received at FLDS schools, which both girls quit in eighth grade.
Their parents have said they were merely rebellious teens.
Flora Jessop of Arizona, who left the FLDS community when she was a teen, helped the girls escape. They have lived with Fawn Holm’s brother, Carl, and his wife, Joni, since last summer.
The couple sought Dr. Phil’s help as the girls’ became increasingly torn between their old and new lives, and about whether their decision to leave was right.
“These girls needed some type of counseling so they could make decisions and be happy with those decisions and know that their opinions count and matter,” said Joni Holm, who said Tuesday’s program was taped in February.
Dr. Phil’s advice: “I do know that God is a loving God and that God is loving and caring and nurturing, particularly of children,” he said on Tuesday’s program. The notion that someone might “forever burn in hell” for exercising free will is “just simply not right.”
As the girls adjust to their new lives, he recommended they rely on adults to help sort things out while knowing they are free to accept or reject what others say.
Dr. Phil also sent the girls to see Steven Hassan, a licensed mental-health counselor in Massachusetts who specializes in helping people leave cults. Hassan is a former follower of Rev. Moon and author of Combatting Cult Mind Control.
The Fawns, as they are called, spent three days with Hassan in March and are following up with counseling in Utah.
“I no longer want to go back,” said Fawn Broadbent, 18. “I am learning to not be scared of men. I’m learning to talk more to people I don’t know. It’s made me feel so much happier. I’m not as stressed. I’m learning to speak my own opinions, too.”
Fawn Holm, 17, said she realizes “my family just wants me to be like them. Every time I start getting happy it makes them . . . scared and they try to bring my self-esteem down. Now I realize it [the FLDS church] is a cult, not the one true thing. I just don’t want people to bring me down like that.
“I love [my family] so much it hurts, but I need to take care of me before I can love or take care of anybody else,” she said.
The Holms and the teens flew to Los Angeles Tuesday night to tape a second program with Dr. Phil that will focus on efforts to curb polygamy. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, as well as proponents of the lifestyle, are said to be slated for that show.