Sherry Johnson grew up in Tampa, Florida. She was an only child, and her household consisted of her, her mother, and her mother's husband. They lived in the parsonage of their conservative Pentecostal church.
Beginning at age 8, Sherry was repeatedly raped by the bishop and deacon of her church. She was also raped by her mother's husband. She became pregnant, as a result this rape at age 10.
The pregnancy was not recognized until she was 7 months pregnant. Johnson's mother did not support or believe her statements that she was raped, and did not accompany her to the hospital when it was time to deliver the baby.
Later, Johnson's mother arranged for her to marry the deacon who had raped her, assumed to be driven by her status in the church and so the deacon could avoide criminal charges.
At the time, 16 and 17-year-old minors could get married with parental permission in Florida, and children of any age could be married with the permission of a county judge when a pregnancy was involved. While the first judge refused to issue a license of marriage because she was so young—though it was legal—a second judge agreed to grant the license and Johnson was married to her rapist on March 29, 1971, at age 11.
Johnson had six children by the time she was 17-years-old, and was forced drop out of school after the ninth grade to raise them as best as she could. At age 17, she sought help from Legal Aid Society, which gave her $75 to pay for an attorney and file for her divorce.
Sherry Johnson has worked tirelessly for the past 7 years to change laws that allow these types of forced underage marriages to occur. Most people are extremely surprised that it is still allowed in the majority of our states. She has been hailed as a hero by governors and legislators, and has received national and international media attention.
Sherry funds much of her lobbying and traveling efforts by speaking on this topic and sharing her story to audiences all over the United States. If you'd like to learn more, please contact her through the link below,
Together, we CAN make a difference in this world.