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Thursday, May 07, 2009

More in polygamous communities seek help

Salt Lake City, Utah
May 7, 2009

By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune
Safety Net Committee » Coordinator says word is spreading.

In the first three months of the year, 80 people sought help from the Utah Safety Net Committee with problems ranging from a purported kidnapping to domestic violence and allegations of sexual abuse.

Pat Merkley, coordinator, said the calls for help have grown as word of services available through the committee has spread -- and trust has built that religious affiliation is not an issue.
"This last quarter was the highest victim-services hours and numbers we've had," Merkley said.
Merkley shared the latest tallies at the committee's monthly meeting in Salt Lake City. The committee, funded by the Utah Legislature, provides outreach services to polygamous communities in Utah and Arizona.

Between January and March, Merkley and caseworker Chelsea Gambles worked with 457 people in one way or another. The largest contact came through training sessions provided to two communities -- the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Apostolic United Brethren.

They also provided family, individual or group counseling services to nearly 100 people.
Merkley said victim services included counseling a family where a disciplining situation with a teenager escalated into a physical altercation, assisting four women who left polygamous relationships, and helping a plural wife in an abusive situation get a protective order against her husband.

All fundamentalist Mormon groups were represented by those who sought help.
"This is no different than any other community I've worked with," she said. "Problems are problems. I am not claiming that the victims are different or that they are any more than any other population. I hope we can continue to maintain their trust, knowing that we will respectfully work with them."

During the quarter, Merkley also ran three support groups for women who have left or are still in polygamous relationships. Merkley took over management of the committee last summer. It had previously been overseen by the Utah Attorney Generals Office.
I have to tell you though, I LOVE the series "Big Love".

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