A part of my story is now on the front page of the Washington Post, Section B, told in 8 beautiful sentences. What those 8 sentences cannot do is tell the full story of my life before, during, or what has transpired in the last 25 years. They are there for only one purpose and that is to bring to the public’s attention that coerced, forced, and arranged underage marriages are happening in the United States. That America Can Not and Must Not continue to say that this is happening only in “other” countries or that this is only a Muslim, Jewish, or LDS issue. This is an issue that is happening all over America, in homes of all faiths, from the North to the South, from the East to the West, and everywhere in-between. This is a Women’s Issue and can only be stopped by Rising Women.
Before this week, I didn’t fully understand what going viral meant, I do now. I thought that this would be a small piece written in a newspaper that a few people would see and I would be able to remain safely hidden in the shadows. I had no idea it would be featured in major newspapers throughout the US and parts of the world, or that it would appear on Yahoo. The fact that thousands upon thousands, would be reading my story honestly never occurred to me. Or that people would say extremely vile things about my husband, or my parents. I am use to receiving death or rape threats due to my blogs and activism, it doesn’t bother me in the least. But it angers me when I see my parents or my Beloved targeted. I tried to clear up things as they were written but I quickly learned I could not keep up with the thousands of comments. Hence today’s blog, please dive into the shallow end of my story, so that hopefully I can clear up any confusion.
One of the things I feel so strongly about is that getting married before you are an adult is damaging for the girl, the parents of the girl (if they are good parents), and the young man. And if that girl is pregnant, as was in my case, also the innocent life the young girl carries.
My Parents are Good and Loving Parents!
They only wanted me to know and feel the love of G*d. In the aftermath of finding out I had been sexually assaulted by a member of our previous church, they tried to find a church where love was taught and where I could heal. The church had always been a place where they had felt safe and they desperately wanted that for me; they honestly thought they had found such a church and at the time so did I. What they didn’t realize is that while the church preached love from the pulpit, they were teaching toxic patriarchy to the younger audience. One where women were subservient to their husbands or men in authority, where swats were given freely for minor offenses. Where swats for young women were deemed acceptable and swats even for married women were necessary, if the wife’s father hadn’t raised her right or she refused to submit to her husband. As with all things, in time the hypocrisy of the church was also its undoing, but not before many children were hurt.
My parent’s were not the only ones getting pressured, my husband and myself were also being pressured. My parents in the years since then have said I really could have said, “no” and they would have gladly put a stop to it. They have said, that they truly did not want me to get married, BUT here is the important thing for the public to understand, a church that has engrained heaven, hell, demons, angels, satan, and G*d, are a more powerful than the parent. They had spoken so loud that I could hear nothing more than the threat to my unborn baby’s soul if I did not do the right thing. After all:
I had Sinned, I was Unworthy, I was Unclean.
I had been attending the church school, so I knew that my education would have to stop. For a girl who loved learning, had longed to go to college, and become an attorney, this was devastating. Already there were horrible things being said about me. I am still amazed that “adults” were blaming me, as if I was the only one who participated in my pregnancy. My Beloved, had to return to his duty station in Germany, so I alone faced the criticism. The public shame, I had placed upon my family was a glaring red spotlight, that would only shine brighter the further along I got and the stress it was placing on my parents was evident. I felt the only choice I had was to do what I was being told to do, get married, move away, and save my family the public shame that my condition would bring them. If only then we knew how to speak with Radical Honesty and Radical Love, so much pain could have been avoided.
My Beloved Husband was also raised in this church and before he was even 18 years old, his parents signed him over to the US Army. Before he could even drink, he had seen and done things that most of us have only seen in the movies. At the time I became pregnant, he had just returned from the Gulf War, as a war hero.
My Beloved has one of the most gently hearts I have ever met, so he was coming home with wounds no one could see. We found comfort and love with each other and that is how I got pregnant. Two broken kids, who saw and loved each other no matter the depth of the scars.
My Beloved, immediately agreed to marry me. I often wonder what kind of wife I would have been, had I been given the opportunity to truly give myself in marriage instead of being signed over to him. When the age of both parties is not equal and they don’t have equal rights under the law to sign legal documents, it creates an unequal hierarchy of power. That is detrimental to the marriage and the girls self-esteem. This has been one of our ongoing struggles for 25 years. Yet, we have loved each other and fought with and for each other, for more than half of our lives. He also has had to learn to live with a wife who blamed him for stealing her dreams and for every adult that had let her down, the blame landed on his shoulders. This is my Beloved’s character, he honors his commitments, even when it costs him everything. He too had so much to offer the world, he is brilliant and had plans to go to college. At just 20 years old, on top of healing from the wounds of war, he was now a husband and father trying to redesign his life so that he could financial care for his new and unexpected family.
Twenty-Five years later we are still together, we have 3 beautiful children.
We still believe in one marriage for life, not for others but for ourselves. We are still learning how to love, grow, and communicate. I think it has taken us longer than most because we were both just wounded kids, trying to bring the least amount of shame to our families as possible. Loving the soul we had created even more than we loved each other or ourselves. I am blessed to have a husband who is proud of me and encourages me. We are still learning how to speak with Radical Honesty and how to Radically Love each other.
The reason I have chosen to do this blog post instead of the one I wrote for this week is multifaceted. I want to clear up any confusion about my Beloved or my parents. I want to tell a little bit more of the story so that people can understand this isn’t an “others” issue, this is an issue that affects Every American Woman in ways she may not fully understand. I am so proud of myself and the hard work I have done and the bravery it took to do the Washington Post article. The stories of the women are heartbreaking and I am fully aware that the fact that this stories has gone viral also touches on some very deep shadows in our country.
There are a few things that are really important to me, that I want you take away from reading this is:
- I am loved and I deeply love my parents and my husband.
- That girls are not property to be signed away.
- That signing away a girl before she can even vote demeans our country.
- That marriage under the age of 18 hurts not only the people involved, it hurts our country.
- That a person under 18 cannot legally sign a contract, a marriage contract shouldn’t be exempt from these laws.
- When the age of both parties is not equal and they don’t have equal rights under the law to sign legal documents, it creates an unequal hierarchy of power. That is detrimental to the marriage and the girls self-esteem.
- That women are NOT protected by the Constitution.
- The Equal Rights Amendment needs to be implemented NOW.
- That laws need to be enacted in every state making it illegal for ANYONE to get married before they are even allowed to vote.
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