Dawn Tyree was 11 years old when a family friend began to molest her. A bit more than a year later, she became pregnant from these rapes, and her parents found out what had been going on. But they didn’t go to the police; instead, they found another solution.
“It was decided for me that I would marry him,” Tyree recalled.
So Tyree, then 13, was married to her rapist, then age 32. She became one of the thousands of underage American girls who are married each year, often sacrificing their futures to reduce embarrassment to their parents. Statutory rape is thus sanctioned by the state as marriage, and the abuser ends up not in handcuffs but showered with wedding gifts.
Our State Department protests child marriage in Africa and Asia (worldwide, a girl 14 or younger is married every 11 seconds, according to Save the Children), but every state in America allowed child marriages. That has finally changed. Last month Delaware became the first state to ban all child marriages, without exception.
“This is a historic moment for women and girls, where we’re finally ending this relic from a sexist past that is destroying girls’ lives,” said Fraidy Reiss, who runs an organization, Unchained at Last, that fights child marriage. “It shouldn’t have been this difficult.”
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