The terror and agony faced by four-year old Jessica Mast as her parents and another couple beat her every day for two weeks in the name of “godly discipline” is unimaginable to most people – except for survivors of religions that embed submission and obedience to the “will of the father” into daily practices for women and girls, reinforced with bodily terrorism if necessary. Jessica will never be one of those survivors because in the end, after yet another beating with her father’s belt, her little head was held beneath the icy water of a pond. She was dragged to the bank and left there to freeze.
You might be tempted to write this off as mental illness of the murderers, or to a horrific and unexplainable anomaly. Please don’t. While mental illness may be in play here and most cases of child abuse do not end in death – what happened here was years in the making, as the adults who killed her, while also beating her two-year-old sister and at times, her mother – were products of a conservative Plain culture where physical abuse of children to break their will is broadly accepted. The church all four adults attended, unsurprisingly, has distanced itself from any responsibility for this child’s death. According to the Sheriff, the actions leading to her death are “not condoned” by the church.