Florida’s halls of power currently side with the rapist, not the rape victims, if the parents are ok with it.
Sherry Johnson was raped at age 8 and became pregnant at age 10. She was forced to marry her rapist at age 11. To keep the abuse secret, Sherry says her parents forced her to marry the 20-year-old bishop who raped her. She became a wife and a mother by the fifth grade.
Sherry could not get a divorce until she was 18. By that time, she had six children with the man who continued to rape her legally. She had to abandon high school due to repeated pregnancies.
Currently, she is an advocate to end child marriage in the U.S. (huge uphill fight)
In Florida marriage laws have a loophole that allows children under the age of 16 to get married if they’re pregnant and have the consent of their parents. In the past 18 years, Florida granted marriage licenses to more than 16,000 children as young as 13.
Johnson has spent years lobbying lawmakers to stop this horrific policy of child abuse. 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.
But in 2018 she started to gain ground and as incredible as this may sound, Florida may become the first state in America to say no, unequivocally, to all marriages of minors. At the end of 2018 laws began to change but not fully in line with what Sherry wants to see for children.
Every state has loopholes that legalize child marriage. In fact, 25 states don’t even bother to set a minimum age. 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.
As a little girl, Johnson lived with her mother in Tampa in the back of the parsonage of their church.
Johnson and her mother belonged to an apostolic church and went to mandatory service six days a week, sometimes seven. Hats and long sleeves were required for the girls and women; they could not wear pants or jewelry. They behaved in accordance with strict church guidelines, and the elders told them what they could say or do.
One day, when Johnson was 8, the church bishop summoned her into his bedroom. After that, she was raped repeatedly by the bishop and a church deacon.
It was discovered that she was pregnant when her public school had mandatory vaccinations. The child was confused because she never got shots before since her church didn’t allow them. She was examined by a nurse who quickly realized what had happened.
The parent sided with the church and signed away the child through state allowed policies to the Bishop.
Her church prohibited the use of birth control so as a child she repeatedly became pregnant from the Bishop raping her legally. It was only after she left her mother’s church that Johnson was able to start healing.