by Steve Buschbacher
I had thought about telling you a story about a teen wife’s morning. She was getting up and getting breakfast ready for her husband and making him lunch while her friends were getting ready for school and making sure that they had readied either their homework or a good excuse why it was not done.
This topic, though, is so reprehensible to me that I am going with some bare facts –
Child marriage is legal in some circumstances in almost every state in the U.S. Nearly every state has laws barring children under 18 from marrying, but there are ways to get exemptions — for example, by asking for judicial consent or presenting parents’ permission.
In 27 states, the law does not specify any minimum age below which a child cannot marry.
What happens if the marriage goes wrong and the female wants out? Generally, children can not initiate legal action on their own meaning that, while they can marry, they can not divorce.
According to Unchained At Last (www.unchainedatlast.org) , an organization dedicated to eradicating child marriage in the U.S., 167,000 children under the age of 18 were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. They also say that the number was very conservative as they were able to get statistics in only 38 states. To put that number in perspective, 167,000 is just about the population of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi.
Trevicia Williams was in the ninth grade when her mother picked her up from school and told her that she was to be married that day. It was not long after they were married that she found herself the victim of physical abuse. Let’s drive that home a bit. We are talking about a 14 year old female enduring physical abuse at the hands of a husband nearly twice her age. A husband she never wanted in the first place. I have an adult daughter and two adult step-daughters. The very thought of that makes me angry and sick at the same time.
Trevicia was married in an afternoon but it took her four years to get herself and her daughter out of that marriage. She now lives in Dallas. She has a PhD in Psychology. She is a published author, a keynote speaker, and a passionate opponent of child marriages. She has dedicated her life to helping others. This is her website. (www.treviciawilliams.com)
Not all child brides are as lucky or as gifted. Until we change laws, habits, and ways of thinking in our country, we can not hope to make significant progress against an ugly reality. Adults do not always make great decisions regarding children. Roy Moore was almost elected to the United States Senate from Alabama despite having made unwanted advances toward teenage females and openly admitting to dating teenagers while he was in his 30s.
You may have picked up that everything I have written has a slant towards talking about teen marriages with an eye towards females. One study says that, of all the teenagers getting married, 87% of them are female. The numbers dictate how the story leans.
What is the law in your state? If the law allows for anyone …. anyone …. under the age of 18 to get married, then I believe that it is time to get to your computers and start writing. We need to change the laws. “What about exceptions for good people”? you may ask. Surely we must make allowances for people who are, indeed, ready for marriage before the age of 18. We already have laws like that in many states. Laws that allow for either parental consent or a judge’s decision or both in order to get married early. Go back two paragraphs to read, again, about adults not always making good decisions. Roy Moore was a judge. Do you want a judge like him deciding if a child can get married? I know that I don’t.
What will happen if your state changes the law regarding child marriage? Will it change how some people think? I learned a long time ago in the Civil Rights movement that the first thing you do is change people’s habits and then you change their minds.