There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Among this number, are children subjected to forced marriage. A study published on child marriage in 2011 determined that the prevalence of child marriage among women in the US was 8.9 percent, meaning that over 9.4 million US women were married at age 16 or younger. Forced marriage and child marriage are understudied problems within the United States and more research is needed to determine what drives its occurrence.
Jamie was forced in to an arranged marriage when she was 19, to a man who beat and raped her and abused their children.
I was raised in an Orthodox Jewish community where I was expected to follow my parents advice and my husband's rule. My husband abused me sexually emotionally and physically and later when we had kids he beat them too.
In March 2010 I fled him with both my children to a domestic violence shelter. I used to be afraid of him coming home. That those were the hours of the day that I dreaded the most. I felt the noose around my neck tighten. I was frightened of what's gonna happen. Despite reaching out, my family and community expected me to endure the situation and there was just no help.
I fell into a very deep depression and I did not want to live any longer. It was unbearable. I told the kids I am going to have to make a decision and I want to let you know I am planning to leave. We are gonna flee and go to a domestic violence shelter I want you to be okay with this. And my son said please let's just go I can't take this anymore. In my despair I searched for support outside of my community and I found Unchained At Last, an organization that helps women leave forced marriages. Freda Reese the executive director was extremely compassionate and supportive and found me a pro bono lawyer who helped me win physical custody of my children. I was able to find some calm for the first time in years. Whether it was helping me get a car when I needed it and whether it was support throughout my medical treatment, Freddie Freda and Unchained At Last have been there for me ever since.
I am able to see a wonderful future ahead of me. I have never been allowed to go to college and now I am attending my local community college and growing daily and mentally and emotionally and physically becoming healthier and a more progressive part of society. I feel human.
Narrative provided by Unchained At Last