The devastating abuse, neglect and mistreatment of many children in this country is enough to make you literally weep as you hear the unfortunately familiar stories from victims about their abusers. One woman who faced horrible sexual abuse at an early age and ultimately forced into underage marriage is determined to end child marriage all on her own.
In an exclusive report by CNN, Sherry Johnson tells her heartbreaking story of being raped at age 8, pregnant at 10 and forced to marry her rapist at 11. After years of abuse, Johnson is now making it her mission to end childhood marriage in the U.S. and she won’t stop until proper legislation is in place.
Excerpts via CNN:
Her story is shocking. Raped at 8 and pregnant at 10, she was forced to marry her rapist at 11. She had to abandon high school after the babies kept coming. For years, she kept silent. But now, her voice rings clear in chambers where the state’s laws are made. Her unrelenting public pleas to end child marriage are being heard.
[Johnson] is on her way to meet with a state senator co-sponsoring a bill to abolish child marriage in Florida. An identical version has been introduced in the House. Johnson has spent the last five years lobbying lawmakers to stop the kind of abuse she suffered in her childhood. An effort to ban child marriage under the age of 16 got traction in the Florida House in 2014 but went nowhere in the Senate.
Since then, Johnson’s words have fallen on deaf ears. Doors have closed on her. Until recently. As incredible as this may sound, Florida stands poised to become the first state in America to say no, unequivocally, to all marriages of minors.
One of the most shocking things revealed in CNN’s exclusive with Johnson are the statistics of childhood marriage. “Child marriages are legal in every US state because of a hodgepodge of exceptions that let minors get married with parental consent or judicial approval. A majority of these marriages are coerced and involve girls marrying adult men, according to the Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit group that tracks child marriage and aims to end gender-based violence.”
Despite the uphill battle, Johnson remains optimistic that she can finally impact change and stop the horrifying cycle of childhood marriage permanently. Johnson wants to stage a play based on her 2013 autobiographical novel, “Forgiving the Unforgiveable.” She’s also compiled a budget for a bus tour to promote awareness. She’s asking Lauren Book, a senator from Florida, to help her brainstorm ways to raise money.
“When the bill passes, I want the community to know this has happened,” Johnson says. “I just want ideas. This is all so new to me. I can’t relax right now,” she says without hesitation. “I’m on a journey.”
It’s a long read, but it’s definitely worth taking the time out to read Sherry Johnson’s full story and how it empowered her to make a difference.
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