Polygamy might a controversial topic, but there is no shortage of reality TV series dedicated to the topic.
However, along with interest is a bit of skepticism, especially when it comes to the subjects featured on the Lifetime series Escaping Polygamy.
The premise of the show is simple: three sisters, who escaped the Kingston clan, help others break free of polygamy. Easy right? Not really...
Is Escaping Polygamy real?
The show returns for a four-week event on April 1, and fans aren't sure how to feel about the series, which claims to help women escape from their plural marriages — mostly rooted in Utah.
Seeing as polygamy is illegal in the United States, it's would seem that these families would be arrested for their lifestyle. However, it's not uncommon for police tend to look the other way when it comes to these — just look at the Sister Wives stars, who move from state to state to avoid persecution.
In 2016, Salt Lake City resident Susan Nelson sued the production team behind the television show for emotional distress after she claimed the show paid her daughter $5,000 per episode to appear on the show and pressured her to leave home.
According to the lawsuit, the production team trespassed on the family's property by "reaching through a doggie door at the rear of the home" to unlock a door and enter the house.
The lawsuit was dismissed after Susan and her attorney failed to serve the defendants.
What is the Kingston Clan?
The "sisters" who are helping women escape polygamy are Jessica Christensen, Shanell DeRieux, and Andrea Brewer. All three of the ladies were members of the Kingston Clan, also known as The Order.
Created by Charles W. Kingston after he became disgruntled by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in 1926, he began preaching polygamy to his followers.
Jessica is the oldest of 12 children to Kingston descendant Daniel Kingston and his sixth wife, Heidi. Jessica was courted by her 42-year-old uncle when she was just 14 years old, but managed to run away before she was officially engaged. Her parents, who were found guilty of neglect, gave up their parental rights to Jessica and her sister Andrea, who ran away at 12 years old.
As for Shanell — who is the daughter of Daniel and his seventh wife, Shirley — she did not manage to escape before being forced into a polyamorous relationship. At the age of 18, she was in an abusive marriage with one of her first cousins. Two years later, she was able to escape and is now remarried with three daughters.
Jessica has also remarried and is a mom to three daughters, while Andrea is currently working as an attorney in Seattle when she's not filming the show.
The current leader of the Kingston Clan is Paul Elden Kingston, and it is reported that he has up to 27 wives (including three half-sisters) and some wives have as many as 18 children.
For the sisters, escaping polygamy is really real. "At that time, people would just sort of disappear,” Andrea said of polygamy in an interview. "But now, with social media and things like that, people know what’s out there."
The sisters have since started a non-profit called Hope After Polygamy to help connect people leaving polygamous households with housing and support.
Do you or a family member need help, or would you like to learn more about organizations that help women escaping polygamy and assist victims of sexual assault? Call or visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) at 800-656-4673.
Watch Escaping Polygamy Mondays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.