SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A woman featured in a reality TV show about a polygamous family is going public about sex abuse she claims she suffered as a child in hopes of changing a culture of secrecy plaguing plural families in Utah.
Rosemary Williams of "My Five Wives" on TLC says she was molested more than two decades ago by her father, Lynn A. Thompson and published her claims in a blog. He is the leader of the one of largest organized polygamy groups in Utah, the Apostolic United Brethren, or AUB.
The AUB is estimated to be the second-largest polygamist church in Utah behind Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border. Unlike Jeffs' group, which has been plagued for years by allegations of abuse and child brides, the Apostolic United Brethren in northern Utah has a clean reputation.
Thompson said the allegations were not true when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday. He did not immediately respond to a phone message on Saturday.
Rosemary Williams says her father fondled her when she was 12 years old. She told The Associated Press that she does not plan to file a criminal accusation or a lawsuit against her father because she doesn't think that will do any good. She says she wants to prevent him from abusing others, especially given his recent appointment as president of the AUB, which has up to 7,500 followers across the West.
Williams also hopes to be an advocate for abuse victims in patriarchal societies like the one she was raised in, where families are often fearful to report crimes out of concern they may be prosecuted under polygamy laws. She doesn't believe sex abuse is widespread among the polygamous group, but she wants mothers to be able to come forward and report it and other forms of abuse when they occur.
"The reason people are afraid to say anything is because they are upholding somebody in a position of authority and they're taught to respect them," Williams said. "They are afraid of the repercussions. They are afraid of Utah coming down on them and carrying their kids out of their home."
A search of criminal charges available online show no record of any criminal convictions for Thompson, and the Utah Attorney General's Office is unaware of any formal complaints submitted against Thompson, said spokeswoman Missy Larsen. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he couldn't comment on the matter.
David Watson, a spokesman for the AUB, didn't return multiple phone calls from The AP.
Rosemary Williams is Brady Williams' third wife. He and his five wives and their combined 24 children are featured in the TLC reality show, "My Five Wives." They decided to do the show in part to demonstrate that polygamy can be healthy and stable. They live in a rural community outside of Salt Lake City Lake City where most people belong to the group Thompson leads.
They no longer are members of the group. They slowly withdrew during the mid-2000s after re-evaluating their core beliefs. They still practice polygamy, but only because they are happy doing so, not out of the fear of hell or the promise of heaven, Brady Williams says.
She said she recently confronted her father about what happened. He said he didn't remember and that he would pray to God to remember what happened. She reported the abuse recently to another high-ranking church leader, but nothing was done, she said.
Rosemary Williams became choked up and was unable to talk while discussing the reaction she expects from family and friends who are still members of the polygamous group.
"She knows that it will be very strong reprisal," said Brady Williams, explaining why his wife couldn't speak. "Her family will probably disown her along with many of her friends."
There was no immediate response from TLC.