A B.C. judge has ruled the public can see and hear 14 first-hand accounts of life inside polygamous communities in a landmark court case on Canada's polygamy laws.

In many cases the videos show verbal testimony of incest, abuse and abandonment. The so-called polygamy survivors -- many of whom have spent time in the polygamous B.C. community of Bountiful -- provide first-hand accounts of a lifestyle they consider damaging.

"There was a lot of cruelty. There was a lot of child abuse," former Bountiful resident Brenda Jensen says in one video.

"We didn't know there were other constitutional rights. We just knew we had the right to freedom of religion."

The question of whether the ban on polygamy violates religious freedoms has been referred to a judge after British Columbia abandoned its prosecution of two religious leaders in Bountiful.

The B.C. government submitted the videos, but it asked the court to prevent news outlets from broadcasting them. One of the witnesses complained after her video appeared on a Vancouver newspaper's website.

Chief Justice Robert Bauman has denied the Crown's request for a publication ban, saying the "whim" of a witness isn't enough to override the media's right to access and report on the court.

The videos include Carolyn Jessop, who recalls her dramatic escape from an isolated polygamous community in the United States and Brent Jeffs, who has written a book about the sexual abuse he suffered in a similar community.

"Polygamy is nothing but a control, a person who has absolute control over a people to do whatever he wants. To me, it's a cult," Jeffs says.

Ruth Lane, who was once married to Bountiful leader Winston Blackmore used to support the practice, but she no longer does. She was Blackmore's 10th wife -- her younger sister became his 11th.

"He married a couple of 15-year-olds. They can stretch it however they want, but they were 15," Lane says.

Blackmore denies marrying teenage girls.

Don Fischer had lived in a polygamous community in the U.S., but says he was one of the many so-called "lost boys" forced to leave for Bountiful at the age of 14.

"The boys who were shipped up there, it was kind of a work camp, reform camp. Keep them busy doing work night and day so that they can't go off and be bad," Fischer says.

The video affidavits are intended to support the argument that Canada's existing laws should be strengthened, but others say the videos are simply personal stories, and the horrors described within them aren't isolated to polygamy.

Polygamy proponents say that if the practice weren't against the law, abuse and incest victims might feel more comfortable calling the police.

"The negative aspects of polygamy should be dealt with by the sections in the Criminal Code on sexual exploitation and things like that," George MacIntosh, the lawyer appointed to oppose the law, told CTV News.

With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV British Columbia's Sarah Galashan