Sect’s boys may have been abused too, agency says

(CNN) — At least 41 children taken from a polygamist sect’s Texas ranch may have had past broken bones, officials say, and investigators are looking into the possible sexual abuse of some of the sect’s young boys.

“The investigation is still in its early phases, but we have gathered additional information that is cause for concern,” the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said in a statement on its Web site.

The statement said the department is looking into the possibility that some of the young boys taken from the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, had been sexually abused based on interviews with the children and journal entries found at the ranch.

The department did not provide additional information.

The statement did not provide details about the 41 children investigators believe may have had broken bones, saying it does “not have X-rays or complete medical information on many children so it is too early to draw any conclusions based on this information.”

“But it is cause for concern and something we’ll continue to examine,” it said.

The department said it presented its findings to the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

Texas authorities and child welfare officials raided the ranch earlier this month after receiving calls alleging physical and sexual abuse of girls at the compound.

The state currently has custody of the more than 460 children and youths who were removed from the ranch, which is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy.

On Tuesday, a teenage girl from the ranch gave birth to a healthy boy, said Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for the protective services department.

At the time of the raid, state officials said teenage girls were routinely forced into underage marriages and sex with men who were much older.

Texas law puts the general age of consent at 17. Marriage is permitted at 16 with permission from a parent, according to The Associated Press.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 30, 2008.
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