11 Years Old, a Mom, and Pushed to Marry Her Rapist in Florida
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of New York Times
Posted: June 4th, 2017
When she was a scrawny 11-year-old, Sherry Johnson found out one day that she was about to be married to a 20-year-old member of her church who had raped her. She had become pregnant, she says, and child welfare authorities were investigating - so her family and church officials decided the simplest way to avoid a messy criminal case was to organize a wedding. Today she is ... part of a nationwide movement to end child marriage in America. Meanwhile, children 16 and under are still being married in Florida at a rate of one every few days. In fact, more than 167,000 young people age 17 and under married in 38 states between 2000 and 2010. Among the states with the highest rates of child marriages were Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky. The number of child marriages has been falling, but every state in America still allows underage girls to marry, typically with the consent of parents, a judge or both. Twenty-seven states do not even set a minimum age by statute. A great majority of the child marriages involve girls and adult men. Such a sexual relationship would often violate statutory rape laws, but marriage sometimes makes it legal. Johnson ... says that her family attended a conservative Pentecostal church and that other girls of a similar age periodically also married. Often, she says, this was to hide rapes by church elders. She says she was raped by both a minister and a parishioner. A judge approved the marriage to end the rape investigation, she says, telling her, What we want is for you to get married.
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