Holding Out Help (HOH) is an organization that has made it its mission to save girls and women from the dangers of polygamous communities. Through a small staff and dedicated volunteer support, HOH provides the care and resources needed for victims to be able to live on their own and become independent.
Cindy Metcalf, director of development and marketing as well as project manager at HOH, said, “We want to make sure they’re safe. We want to make sure they’re mentally stable, that they are getting the best care possible.” A safe environment full of love and protection is new to the women who have escaped polygamous situations.
“Polygamy has the greatest sexual abuse statistic in the state,” Metcalf said. “It has a sex abuse rate of 75%.” Metcalf tells of cases where fathers, uncles, and brothers have abused the girls in the family from as young as 4 years old. Boys are sent away to work camps because of their “sinful behavior” where they are physically abused through beatings.
According to Metcalf and other sources, the abuse does not stop there. When a child misbehaves, they are withheld proper necessities such as food and water and medical care. Child labor is also commonly found where young children are forced to work long hours. They are often required to operate heavy machinery and work in mines without proper protection.
Metcalf said she has been helping these people since Holding Out Help started. “The girls are like little moms … you typically see a 9 year-old girl being forced to take care of three little ones (children).”
An escapee from a polygamous community who asked to remain anonymous said in a video interview, “The rest of the world will never be able to understand what it is like to be in a place like that.” Holding back tears she described what life was like in three words, “It was prison.”
All this abuse is difficult to overcome but Holding Out Help has been a stepping stone for the healing process. The organization not only provides shelter for the women who have escaped, but it also offers resources to help them get back on their feet. These include necessities like clothing, healthcare, and food. Case managers provide counseling, help them get enrolled in school, and coach them to set goals.
The source who escaped polygamy said she smiled when she first walked into HOH. “I realized this was the first moment since we came out that things might be OK,” she said.
Intern Emma Harter has a soft spot for stories like these and the women who come through the organization’s doors. She is now passionately working at Holding Out Help after hearing about it through her high school where she met some of the clients.
“There were multiple people taking classes at my school who had come out of polygamy,” Harter said. “One in particular shared with me her life story and I just had a huge heart for her and being able to see her grow.”
Now, Harter is entering her third year with the nonprofit organization and is changing people’s lives left and right. She is a case manager, specifically over the new residential complex center that was built in 2020.
Her job is simple, meet with clients — women who have escaped polygamy — and help them figure out what they want to do in life.
“I help establish what their goals are, initially. What they want to see growth in, where they want to move forward in life,” Harter said.
These goals range from physical fitness and academics to having successful careers. She then helps them through HOH to take small steps toward achieving those goals.
Holding Out Help has made such a difference that it is becoming more and more popular among victims seeking refuge. So much so that HOH has needed to nearly double the amount of staff members in 2020.
Because of the rapid growth, the organization’s resources are strained. “We are constantly in need of host homes, mentors, partners, and any other resources,” Harter said. “Especially with COVID, we have experienced more need than ever.”
Cindy Metcalf, the director of development and marketing, said the biggest needs right now are donations. These could be but are not limited to food, clothing, and cash donations.
Host homes are also always needed. Most girls and women need a family to take them in short term to help them get back on their feet and smoothly transition into society.
Other ways to get involved are through volunteering or becoming a mentor to one or more of the victims.
Metcalf said Holding out Help’s goal right now is to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteering could be a tremendous help to that.
There are many ways to sign up and join the Holding out Help community. Its website is a great tool to not only register as a volunteer or to donate, but also to learn more about the organization and its mission.
Harter said, “If you could offer any sort of service, reach out.”