It's difficult to find statistics about polygamy because the marriages are rarely documented. Although we don't have accurate numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests that sexual and physical abuse, marrying minors and other kinds of abuse are fairly common in polygamist marriages. The structure of these families also destroys the independence of females, since wives and children are expected to be subservient to authoritarian husbands and fathers. Wives are also extremely dependent and have trouble leaving because they don't have the life skills they need to survive on their own. Polygamist wives are so used to the lifestyle, having been raised in it, that they have trouble believing there could be another way to live.
In 2008, there was a police raid on a very large polygamist compound just outside of Eldorado, Texas, where it was alleged by officials that girls as young as age 13 were forced into marriages and endured physical and sexual abuse. The raid was triggered by an anonymous phone call alleging the abuses. The children were removed from the compound, and more than 100 women stayed with the children [source: USA Today]. However, not much came of the investigation, from a legal standpoint, although local family and protective services staff said their own investigations concluded that there were 12 cases of sexual abuse and neglect, as well as 262 children who were neglected by parents who did not remove them from harmful situations [source: Hoff].
It's interesting to note how Western attitudes toward polygamy differ from those of other parts of the world. Although most Americans think monogamy is the normal course of things, many marriages in the world are actually polygamous. It's even been suggested that the Western pattern of frequent divorce and remarrying is a kind of serial polygamy. (Most anthropologists, however, call it serial monogamy.) Polygamy is allowed in many Islamic societies, since the Koran allows a man to have up to four wives if he's able to support and treat all of them equally. Similarly, Confucianism supported polygamy, so when it was popular, polygamy was as well. And the pre-Christian Celts, as well as many Native American and African tribes, practiced polygamy.
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