In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday against the leadership of the Fundamentalist LDS (FLDS) Church, an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon (LDS) Church, an unnamed 21-year-old woman identified publicly only as “R.H.” accused high-ranking FLDS leaders of ritualistic sexual abuse against girls as young as 8-years-old. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are FLDS Church president (and previous FBI “10 Most Wanted” fugitive) Warren Jeffs, brothers Lyle and Seth Jeffs, and previous FLDS Church leader Wendall Nielsen. All are accused of child sex abuse.
As Fox 13 Now reports, R.H. is targeting the relatively deep pockets of both the FLDS Church and its court-managed United Effort Plan Trust, which manages the controversial church’s real estate holdings. According to R.H., her reasons for filing the lawsuit are many and varied, not the least of which a concern that “certain parties” within the FLDS Church be held responsible for what she calls “religious-based systemic sexual abuse of young children.” Via a statement released by her legal team, R.H. claims that she believes that the ritualistic sexual abuse that she and others allegedly endured is still ongoing within the FLDS community, despite the fact that church leader and self-proclaimed “prophet” Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas for similar crimes against children.
Court filings outline the horrific details of R.H.’s allegations against FLDS Church leadership, including claims that, from the age of 8-years-old, she would be forcibly removed from her home with a bag over her head, transported to a secondary, unknown location and sexually abused by Warren Jeffs, his brothers, and Nielsen while others watched. According to the R.H., the sexual abuse was ritualistic in nature and occurred an unthinkable five to six times every week.
“Systemic sex abuse at the hands of Warren Jeffs and other leaders of the FLDS Church from the age of eight until the age of 14.”
In her lawsuit against the FLDS Church, the alleged victim added that the sexual abuse she endured was documented, and that she was also forced to document the abuse of other young girls per orders from FLDS Church leadership. While Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison for two counts of child sex assault out of Texas in 2011, it is widely believed that he is still the de-facto leader of the FLDS Church from his place behind bars. According to Michael Worel, an attorney for R.H., he believes child sex abuse is still rampant within the cult-like “church,” even though all new marriages among the FLDS faithful have reportedly been banned.
This isn’t the first time in recent months that the FLDS Church and its leadership has faced a civil lawsuit in connection with the alleged sexual abuse of children within the wholly insular community. As Fox 13 Now reports, former 14-year-old child bride Elissa Wall recently and successfully sued the FLDS Church and its holdings to the tune of $16 million. Warren Jeffs presided over her illegal, underage “spiritual” wedding.
The FLDS Church was reportedly served with the R.H. child sexual abuse lawsuit on Wednesday, and it is still unknown whether or not the organization would bother seeking out legal representation or even responding to the charges. Church leadership has a history of declining to answer legal questions, and two of the three Jeffs brothers (Warren and Lyle) are currently serving prison terms. The other two members of FLDS Church leadership named in the lawsuit, Seth Jeffs and Wendall Nielson, have also both served time behind bars for crimes related to their activities within the church.
“She wants justice and we fully intend on pursuing that for her.”
R.H’s lawsuit against the FLDS Church does not indicate a specific dollar amount with regard to damages she is seeking. However, according to her legal team, she “wants her day in court.”