A US woman says she was forced to marry her rapist by an extreme Christian community in the country’s south, eventually giving birth to nine children.
Sherry Johnson said she was just 11 years old when a court failed to punish a 20-year-old she said raped her, and instead pushed her into marriage. It was not a unique situation in her Pentecostal community in Florida, she said.
Ms Johnson told the New York Times she was raped by both a minister and a parishioner as a child, but she found no justice from her family or the courts.
"They took the handcuffs from handcuffing him to handcuffing me, by marrying me without me knowing what I was doing," she told the paper.
But when the case came to court, she said, she was pushed into marriage in a move to stop the investigations.
“What we want is for you to get married,” Sherry said the judge told her when she was just a child.
She gave birth to her first child a year before that. By the time the marriage ended she was a mother to nine, and described an awful childhood trying to bring up her children while she herself was still a child.
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Sherry said her mother had also pushed her into marriage and is now campaigning to end the practice of underage marriage.
Underage marriage is permitted in every US state, while 27 states have no age requirements at all, the Times reported.
Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky saw the most instances of child marriage.
According to the New York Times, figures from the group Unchained at Last suggested more than 167,000 children under 17 had been married in the US but the number couldbe much higher.
Efforts to raise the legal age are also hitting hurdles, such as in New Jersey where Governor Chris Christie recently vetoed a bill that would raise the marriage age from 14 to 17.