Child marriage is “extremely prevalent” in U.S., survivor says

National News

About one in five children around the world is married, according to a new report from the United Nations Population Fund — and underage marriage is not just an issue in other countries. In the United States, more than 200,000 minors were married between 2000 and 2015; most were girls and more than 80% were married to an adult, according to data analyzed by Frontline

“It’s extremely prevalent here in the United States,” said Donna Pollard, the founder of Survivors’ Corner, which advocates for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, abuse and exploitation. Pollard, who is from Kentucky, was married to a man nearly twice her age when she was 16 years old. 

“My perpetrator was in a position of authority over me,” Pollard told CBSN. She said she grew up in an abusive household, and after her father died, when she was 14 years old, she was admitted to a behavioral health facility.

“Unfortunately, instead of receiving the help that I should have received at that facility, I was preyed upon by a mental health technician that worked there,” she said. “He was 29, and again, I was 14.”

When she was released, her mother, who she said had some mental health issues and also had been a child bride, consented to her marriage with the man when she was 16. 

“This is after having two years of him grooming me and making me think that this was a true relationship,” she said. “He ended up exploiting me and abusing me and I did not have any means to escape.”

Because she was not an adult, she could not seek help at a domestic violence shelter or consent to her own medical treatment. The abuse reached a point where neighbors called the police, but “when the police showed up and child protective services, there was nothing that they could do because I was married to him,” she said. 

“I can’t even file criminal charges against him in at least one of the states that’s involved in my case because of the fact I was married to him,” Pollard said. “The cycle perpetuates across generations and it causes survivors to carry with them such shame and such trauma.”

Pollard researched her family’s history and found that on her mother’s side, there was an underage marriage in each of the past five generations, as far back as she could trace.

“There’s no typical profile,” she said. “It could very well be correlated to poverty, it could also be correlated to parents that are trafficking their children to get money for drugs. And then in some cases, parents really have good intentions and they don’t realize that they are also being groomed by pedophiles that have horrible intentions for their child.”

There are only four states — Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey — that completely ban underage marriages. Most states have a minimum age of 18 but allow loopholes like parental consent that can leave girls vulnerable. In Kentucky, Pollard helped pass legislation “as protective as we felt we could make it given the current political landscape.”

“That is setting the floor at either 16 or 17, doing away with the parental consent portion and actually establishing clear and meaningful criteria that a judge would have to access prior to authorizing the marriage to occur,” she said. 

Prior to the change, marriage bureau clerks had no authority to intervene even if they observed that the child did not want to get married, Pollard said. And in a case where a pregnancy was involved, there was no minimum age for marriage.

“In Kentucky, we found a 13-year-old girl married off to a 33-year-old man, a 15-year-old girl married off to a 52-year-old man — I could go on and on to give you these horrific examples of these children who were married off to their rapist,” she said. “It’s horrific and it has to stop now.”

To learn more about child marriages, you can watch the CBSN Originals documentaries “Speaking Frankly: Child Marriage” and “Nepal | The Lost Girls.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Stories

More Local News

Recent Videos

Golf Talk

Thumbnail for the video titled "Golf Talk"

Roller Rink Night

Thumbnail for the video titled "Roller Rink Night"

Ride Along with New K9

Thumbnail for the video titled "Ride Along with New K9"

Donating his Pay Raise

Thumbnail for the video titled "Donating his Pay Raise"

Smokey the Bear

Thumbnail for the video titled "Smokey the Bear"

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder

Thumbnail for the video titled "Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder"

Hazen Astros Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Hazen Astros Baseball"

Minot Metros Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Minot Metros Baseball"

Bismarck Senators Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Bismarck Senators Baseball"

Dr. Wynne on what's to come

Thumbnail for the video titled "Dr. Wynne on what's to come"

Watford City Tornado Shelters

Thumbnail for the video titled "Watford City Tornado Shelters"

Food Pantry

Thumbnail for the video titled "Food Pantry"

New App for Sobriety

Thumbnail for the video titled "New App for Sobriety"

Corn Rootworm

Thumbnail for the video titled "Corn Rootworm"

Isaak Motion Hearing

Thumbnail for the video titled "Isaak Motion Hearing"

How to tell if you're suffering from a heat related illness

Thumbnail for the video titled "How to tell if you're suffering from a heat related illness"

Bismarck Shooting

Thumbnail for the video titled "Bismarck Shooting"

Amber's Wednesday Morning #OneMinuteForecast 7/1

Thumbnail for the video titled "Amber's Wednesday Morning #OneMinuteForecast 7/1"

Wednesday's Forecast: Mostly sunny & warmer

Thumbnail for the video titled "Wednesday's Forecast: Mostly sunny & warmer"

Babe Ruth Baseball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Babe Ruth Baseball"
More Video

KX News Trending Stories

Don't Miss