An antipolygamy group is protesting a decision by the Utah Attorney General’s Office to include a plural wife in a project to aid women and children leaving the polygamous lifestyle, comparing the situation to inviting a rapist to join an anti-rape group.
In a strongly worded news release, officials of Tapestry Against Polygamy (TAP) on Tuesday said they no longer will participate in a joint effort with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to set up a nonprofit organization to help plural wives and their children get a new start in mainstream society.
“The approach that the AG’s office is taking would be similar to trying to create a rape crisis center and inviting both the rapists and their victims to attend,” Rowenna Erickson, TAP co-founder and a former plural wife, said in the release. “Trying to come to a solution with the perpetrator or their wives is unrealistic.”
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The local chapter of the National Organization for Women has joined in the protest.
“The last thing they need to do is add a pro-polygamist,” Andrea Moore Emmett, Utah NOW president, said. “It’s the absolute antithesis of what they’re trying to do.”
Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office who helped organize a meeting earlier this month with TAP officials to discuss their proposal for a networking and resource center, said the office is doing everything it can to help plural wives and is seeking input from as many people as possible. He said he hopes the officials will reconsider and attend meetings about the project.
“We think our goals are the same,” Murphy said. “Tapestry should be pleased with what Mark Shurtleff is doing. He has said, ‘I want to help, I want to find resources to help these people.’ If anyone has been a champion, it’s been Mark.”
Murphy added that plural wives can get the message to other members of their community that help is available.
Anne Wilde, a widowed plural wife in Salt Lake City who is joining the project, said TAP and polygamy supporters differ on many issues, but also have points of agreement.
“If there are women and children who need help and of their own free choice want to leave polygamy, I want to see them helped,” Wilde said. “I would certainly be supportive of helping them. Why can’t we sit down and put aside our differences?”
Murphy said an informal meeting tentatively planned for Friday will not take place because of the logistics of getting everyone together, not because of TAP’s decision to withdraw. Instead, officials with the Attorney General’s Office will meet with law enforcement and social services representatives first, then approach advocacy groups on how to inform plural wives of the available resources, he said.