Dawn Tyree never really had a childhood. You see, the now 51-year-old mother of two was married to a man 19 years her senior the summer after she finished sixth grade. You read that right, the SIXTH grade. She was already pregnant by the man, and at just 13 years old she became both wife and mother.
Today, she is incensed that this kind of thing is legal in our country. Tyree says her parents encouraged her to start spending time with the 30-year-old man when she was just eleven years old, and that he groomed her and made her his sex abuse victim.
Their marriage, she says, was the “solution” to his abuse and her parents’ allowance of it.
“Marriage covers up the rape, the sex abuse and the child endangerment,” she told TODAY.com. “The marriage saved him from a prison sentence,” she adds, “and essentially put me in a prison.”
At just 14, she gave birth again. Tyree says she now knows that having kids so young put her own life in danger. Children who give birth are much more likely to suffer complications like eclampsia, puerperal endometritis and other infections, according to the World Health Organization.
At 16, afraid her husband would sexually abuse her own children, Tyree escaped her abusive marriage, “without a plan,” she says. Domestic violence shelters wouldn’t take the family because she was a minor, so for a time the young mother had to give custody of her children to their paternal grandparents until she could get housing.