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I had my rapist's baby at aged nine, married him at 11 and had six kids by 16

Lady Speak By The Mirror
Sherry was just 11 when she was forced to marry her abuser

Sherry was just nine-years-old when she was raped by a man she should have been able to trust - the deacon of her local church.

He was 18 and targeted Sherry when she was still and young child. Her mother and sisters were out at church and the youngster was home alone.

Sherry's attacker let himself into her home, the one place she should have felt safe, and sexually abused her.

It was a harrowing experience for the nine-year-old and one she will never forget.

Sherry explained: "All you had to do was walk down the steps from the church and you'd walk into our kitchen.

"And that's where he raped me. I woke up with him on top of me. Many times."

Terrified, but certain something very wrong had happened to her, Sherry confided in her mother and begged her to help her understand what she'd been through.

Her mum's reaction was not what she expected - she refused to believe her young daughter and even went as far as telling the whole church congregation that Sherry was a liar.

Sherry said: "I didn't understand what really took place. I did tell my mother. I had no idea what words to really use.

"The only thing that came to mind is, I remember, I said, 'Mom, the deacon messed with me'.

"She said, 'no he did not. He don't do that kind of stuff'. I said, 'Mom, he did'.

"And she told me, 'that's not true'. My mom, for some reason, she seemed to blame me for what happened.

"She told other people that I was fast. She would get up in that church and tell all the members 'don't believe my daughter'. I was a sacrifice to cover up what he did."

Heartbroken, Sherry had nowhere else to turn and contemplated running away from home - but at just nine, she had nowhere else to go.

But then, still aged just nine and after months of abuse, Sherry found out she was pregnant.

Being so young, she had no idea what was happening to her body but her mother was by her side when the doctor told her she was expecting a baby.

Social workers were by now involved but when they asked a frightened Sherry who the father was, her mother told her she was making the family look bad and the nine-year-old kept her terrible secret.

Instead, she was sent away with the bishop. On their way from Tampa to Miami, he pulled over and raped her while she was seven months pregnant.

Sherry gave birth in a hospital while staying with the bishop, thousands of miles from home, and her mother didn't even visit her young daughter or new baby granddaughter.

Social services or the police weren't called and two years later Sherry was forced to marry the man who had been sexually abusing and raping her since she was a child.

They said their vows in the church she had attended all her life.

Sherry's last glimmer of hope was snuffed out when a judge refused to issue a marriage license, so her mother drove to a neighbouring country to get one.

Sherry said: "The state of Florida failed me. The school knew. The hospital knew. The doctors knew.

"The courts knew. Nobody protected me - not one person. Not one."

Chillingly, her mother made the wedding cake, dress and even a veil for her 11-year-old daughter's marriage to a 20-year-old man.

It was then that Sherry realised no one was coming to save her.

Every year after her wedding, Sherry gave birth to another baby and by the time she was 16, she was a mother of six.

The deacon vanished and was even sent to prison for not paying child support but when she tried to launch divorce proceedings, she was unable to because she was under 18.

Sherry was still nine when she found out she was pregnant

Finally, Sherry found a solicitor who would take on her case and she was finally free of the deacon - but also a teenage mother of six.

She has now gone on to have three more children and has always been honest with her kids about what happened to her when she was young.

And four years ago, after being forced to drop out of school to be a wife and mother, Sherry finally got her high school diploma aged 55.

She now works tirelessly to help other children and young women who are forced to become child brides.

Sherry said: "I am a mother of nine children. I am a grandmother of 34 grandchildren.

"I'm a great-grandmother of three children, with one on the way. And I'm grateful for that.

"It was hard, but I endure. The most grateful thing that I say is happening for me right now is to be able to talk about what happened in my past.

"To be able to help others. I was raped, and not only that, I was forced to marry my rapist at the age of 11.

"I ended up in a situation where it wasn't easy to get out of, and that's one of my reasons for doing what I do.

"My children, they are very proud of me coming forth. They'd say, 'Go for it, Mom. Do what you feel like you need to do. I'm happy for you'.

"I consider myself a voice for the voiceless."

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