March 19, 2019
By: Anna Bryan
Sherry Jonson has a shocking story. She was raped at aged 10 and then forced to marry her rapist by her parents when she was only 11. Sherry has written an autobiography about her suffering and the art of forgiveness. With her fearless advocacy, Sherry has become the face of Child Marriage throughout the United States to make sure this does not happen to other children. She has been featured in articles by CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Sherry came home from work one day and a TV crew from the Netherlands was on her doorstep.
Today Sherry lives in Tallahassee, Florida. Sherry is the President of the Ta'Mar Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing awareness to local, state and national audiences about the effects of sexual abuse in our communities. Sherry is also a fierce advocate for the legal end to Child Marriage. Sherry was persistent in her quest for a legal end of Child Marriage through face to face meetings at the state legislature in Tallahassee in 2017 and 2018. She successfully campaigned for tighter restrictions on child marriage in her home state of Florida. Prior to 2018, pregnant children of any age in Florida could get married with a judge's permission. With the passage of the 2018 legislation, children under 17 are prohibited from getting married.
Child Marriage activists are campaigning for a complete ban on Child Marriage as it is the only way to keep children under the age of 18 from being coerced or forced into Child Marriage by their parents or a judge. We asked Sherry if she was disappointed in the final law that passed in Florida. Sherry said “I’m not sad about it at all, even though it is not 18. I do consider it a somewhat victory. I have not given up at the age of 18. The current law in Florida is okay with me because the law does include requirements for those who want to get married at 17. Yes, it has adequate provisions to prevent forced marriage. There are some requirements that I am happy about.”
At the time of our interview, Georgia was close to passing a similar law. Sherry traveled to The General Assembly in the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta to meet with legislators in February 2019. The Georgia state House had passed HB 228 which changes the minimum age from 16 to 17 and requires any person who is 17 to have been emancipated before marriage. The language in this bill that requires minors to be emancipated before marriage is a very important detail. It is the legal provision that will allow married children to access social services or obtain legal counsel for divorce should their spouse become abusive. It is a privilege that Sherry Johnson, and historically, most child brides in the United States did not have.
A documentary about Sherry’s life will air on Thursday, April 25 at 9 pm on the A&E network. Sherry has a remarkable history, but what is more remarkable about Sherry is her ability to make a positive impact on legislators. Sherry believes her in-person testimony helps to put a face and added humanity to the concept of Child Marriage. “Legislators want to see somebody, someone that can speak. When I got to speak with them, I was honored to know they were actually listening to what I was saying.” Sherry shows no signs of slowing down. She is ready to travel and show in any state where she is needed. “I’ve already traveled the road. The hardest part of over. It is about where I am going. I am the voice for the children that are not able to speak on their behalf. Keep fighting, keep fighting.”
Global Hope 365 hopes to bring Sherry to California to bring the voice of the children to legislators in Sacramento. “I go to the capitol, and I stand up for what I know what is right,” said Sherry.