While other children played on the swingset, Sherry Johnson was forced to get married at the age of eleven. However, despite that being bad enough, when you consider that she was forced to marry her rapist, well, things get a bit more complicated.
“It was forced on me,” she explained in an interview. Unfortunately, she had become pregnant, so as child protective services began to investigate, her parents and the local church decided to do something about it: force her into marriage with her rapist.
“My mom asked me if I wanted to get married, and I said ‘I don’t know, what is marriage, how do I act like a wife?’” In turn, her mother replied, “Well I guess you’re just going to get married.”
And despite most people perceiving child marriage as something that only happens in third world countries, this didn’t happen in Haiti, instead, it happened in Florida. Sadly, in 1971, at the age of 11, Sherry became a child bride.
As a child, Sherry lived in an apartment that was attached to her church. During the interview, she explained that the deacon would come into her room whenever he wanted. In 1970, her mother took her to Miami to give birth. According to Sherry, she didn’t even truly understand what pregnant meant.
Then, on March 19, 1971, at a courthouse in Clearwater, she became legally married to her rapist. “We didn’t talk much, I was there for sex only. We didn’t have conversations.”
By the time her marriage was over, she had nine children.
Currently, underage marriage is permitted in every state, while 27 states have no age requirements at all, according to the times. Furthermore, Arkansas, Idaho, and Kentucky are the states in which underage marriage is most popular. Activist group Unchained, at Last, estimates that over 167,000 children under the age of 17 have been married in the U.S. Groups like Unchained, at Last, are currently working to stop child marriage in the U.S, by raising the legal married age from 14-17.