When Sherry Johnson was nine years old, she was raped by the deacon of her local church. Her stepfather was the assistant pastor at an Apostolic Christian church in Tampa, Florida, and she was the daughter of the assistant “church mother.” She was sexually abused by a deacon who was 18 years old at the time.
He’d broken into her house when her mother and sisters were at church. Johnson said, “All you had to do was go down the steps from the church and you’d be in our kitchen.” “And it was there that he raped me.” He was on top of me when I awoke. Several times.”
Sherry Johnson informed her mother of what had occurred and appealed to her to guide her in understanding her ordeal. Despite her age, she sensed something was wrong. Her mother, on the other hand, disregarded her and refused to believe her. She shockingly told the congregation that Johnson was a liar.
Sherry Johnson recounted, “I was a sacrifice to cover up what he done.” She expressed her desire to flee her home at that time. But she was just nine years old and had nowhere to go. To make matters worse, she discovered she was pregnant months after the deacon had sexually molested her.
Social workers were called in, but Sherry Johnson was terrified and couldn’t tell them who the father of her child was. Her mother had also advised her to keep it a secret in order to avoid tarnishing her family name. Johnson was eventually sent away with the deacon, who raped her, on the trip from Tampa to Miami. At the time, the young girl was seven months pregnant.
She gave birth in a hospital while staying with the deacon thousands of miles from home. According to Johnson, her mother did not even come to see her or her new baby. She was forced to marry her rapist, who was now 20 years old when she was 11 years old. Her mother prepared the cake, the dress, and even the veil for her wedding. Because her mother advised her to marry, Johnson claimed she felt “a little bit of security” in the marriage. “So I figured there has to be something wrong with it,” she explained.
However, after the wedding, the deacon began to torture her both mentally and physically. And once he got her pregnant, he would abandon her, only to return after the kid was born to impregnate her once more. Johnson had six children by the age of 16.
The deacon was eventually imprisoned for failing to pay child support. Johnson attempted to initiate divorce procedures but was unable to do so since she was under the age of 18. She was later granted special dispensation and divorced the deacon at the age of 17. Johnson went on to marry twice more, and she was molested in both relationships. But she had three more children, and at the age of 55, she eventually received her high school graduation.
She has been pushing to end child marriage in the United States as a mother of nine children and grandmother of more than 30 grandchildren. Her children, who are aware of what she went through as a girl, have been providing her with all of the support she requires.
Although most states in the United States require that a person be at least 18 years old to marry, certain states make exceptions and allow children under the age of 18 to marry. In most states, a juvenile must have parental consent, a judge’s approval, or be recognized as adults (i.e. emancipated minors) before they can marry. As a result, 25 states allowed minors to marry if they met their state’s exclusions as of December 2017.
According to The U. S. Sun, Johnson’s and others’ efforts prompted the state of Florida to enact legislation raising the minimum age for marriage to 18 years old, with exceptions for pregnant 17-year-olds and those with parental approval.
“I want to help all the other young girls so they don’t have to go through what I’ve gone through,” Johnson said, adding that she has forgiven her abusers and mother.