The Dark Side Of: Arranged Marriage


I’M CHARLIE BERENS,
AND THIS IS “THE DARK SIDE OF.” ARRANGED MARRIAGE —
YOU MAY THINK, “OH, THAT’S SOMETHING THAT
HAPPENS IN OTHER COUNTRIES,” BUT ACTUALLY, IT’S HAPPENING
RIGHT HERE IN THE UNITED STATES. AND THAT’S PARTICULARLY
PROBLEMATIC WHEN WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
UNDERAGE CHILDREN. DID YOU KNOW THAT 25 STATES
HAVE NO MINIMUM AGE REQUIREMENT FOR MARRIAGE? TODAY, WE’RE MEETING
ANGEL MCGEHEE, AND SHE WAS MARRIED OFF
WHEN SHE WAS 13 YEARS OLD. I DIDN’T GET TO
CHOOSE MY LIFE. [ SNIFFLES ] IT WAS CHOSEN FOR ME. LET’S TALK TO ANGEL. ♪♪ WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE GROWING UP
FOR YOU IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD? I WAS VERY ISOLATED
AS A CHILD. MY FATHER PASSED AWAY
WHEN I WAS 6, AND AFTER THAT, MY MOTHER JUST KIND OF
TOOK THIS DOWNWARD SPIRAL INTO ALCOHOLISM. AND SHE WAS VERY
ANTI-GOVERNMENT, ANTI-MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT,
EVERYTHING, AND SO WE DIDN’T GO TO
THE DOCTOR OR THE DENTIST OR SCHOOL
OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. AND SHE ALWAYS TOLD US THAT
SHE JUST WANTED US ALL TO STAY TOGETHER. DID YOU GROW UP THINKING
SOMETHING WAS OFF? WELL, I WOULD SIT, LIKE,
OUTSIDE MY HOUSE AND WATCH KIDS
WALK TO SCHOOL, AND I WAS LIKE, “WHY CAN’T I GO
TO SCHOOL,” YOU KNOW? GROWING UP, I DIDN’T REALIZE
HOW WRONG THAT WAS, HOW IT REALLY WAS
NEGLECT. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY
SHE THOUGHT THAT WAS OKAY EXCEPT TO GROOM ME
FOR THIS LIFESTYLE WHERE WE ALL
STAY TOGETHER. IT WAS A COMMUNE, BASICALLY,
THAT SHE WANTED TO START. MY MOTHER REMARRIED
WHEN I WAS 10 TO A GUY SHE MET
OVER THE INTERNET, AND WE MOVED OUT TO CALIFORNIA
‘CAUSE THAT’S WHERE HE WORKED. WHEN WE MOVED TO CALIFORNIA, MY STEPDAD ENDED UP
GETTING US COMPUTERS. SO I GOT ON THE INTERNET, AND I WOULD PLAY VIDEO GAMES
AND STUFF, TOO, AS A CHILD, AND SO I WOULD GO ON
GAMING FORUMS, AND IT WAS LIKE THE ONLY THING
WHERE I COULD ACTUALLY TALK TO PEOPLE. AND SO I ENDED UP
TELLING MY MOM ABOUT HOW I LIKED THIS BOY
ON THIS INTERNET FORUM. MY MOTHER WAS
A VERY SEXUAL PERSON. SHE BASICALLY TOLD ME,
LIKE, “IF YOU EVER WANT TO
HAVE SEX, YOU HAVE TO GET MARRIED
RIGHT AWAY.” YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY MESSED UP
TO LOOK AT A CHILD AND SAY THIS WOULD BE
A GOOD THING FOR THEM. MY MOTHER THOUGHT IT WAS
LIKE THIS KIND OF RIGHT OF PASSAGE
INTO MY WOMANHOOD, YOU KNOW, SO THAT I COULD START
POPULATING OUR COMMUNE. YEAH. SO WE ENDED UP ACTUALLY
FLYING OUT TO NEW YORK TO MEET THE BOY
THAT I HAD LIKED, WHICH IS
INCREDIBLY BIZARRE. I MEAN, WHO FLIES THEIR,
YOU KNOW, 11-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER OUT
TO MEET ANOTHER BOY. IT DIDN’T END UP WORKING OUT
WITH THAT BOY, THOUGH. WELL, TELL ME ABOUT THE PERSON
YOU DID END UP MARRYING. HE WAS ACTUALLY THIS BOY’S
BEST FRIEND, SO I KIND OF KNEW THEM
BOTH. I MET HIM WHEN I WENT TO
NEW YORK, AS WELL. AND SO, WE KIND OF STARTED
CHATTING ONLINE, AND I REMEMBER MY MOTHER
SAYING, WHEN I TOLD HER THAT
I LIKED THIS BOY, SHE WAS LIKE,
“WELL, I THINK YOU SHOULD GET MARRIED TO HIM THEN.” MY MOTHER ENDED UP,
WHEN I WAS 13, FLYING HIM OUT
FROM NEW YORK. AND THAT’S WHEN
WE GOT MARRIED. ♪♪ WHERE WERE HIS PARENTS
IN ALL THIS? YEAH, SO, HIS MOTHER
ACTUALLY CAME WITH HIM, AND I REMEMBER THERE BEING
THIS HUGE ARGUMENT BECAUSE HE WANTED TO
STAY AND SHE DIDN’T WANT HIM TO, BUT SHE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING
ABOUT IT, AND SHE JUST ENDED UP GOING HOME
AND LEAVING HIM THERE. I KEEP WONDERING WHY DIDN’T
ANYBODY SAY ANYTHING BECAUSE THAT WOULD HAVE
STOPPED IT, IF SOMEBODY HAD FIGURED OUT
THAT SOMETHING WAS GOING ON THAT SHOULDN’T HAVE
BEEN GOING ON. MY MOTHER BOUGHT ME THIS HIDEOUS
WEDDING DRESS, GOT HIM A TUX. AND MY FAMILY WAS THERE.
MY AUNT CAME. AND WE SAID VOWS,
AND IT WAS VERY SURREAL BECAUSE AFTERWARDS,
WE WERE EXPECTED TO CONSUMMATE
THE RELATIONSHIP. IT WAS REALLY WEIRD
TO BE OFTEN JUST THE NEXT ROOM WHILE MY FAMILY WAS,
I DON’T KNOW, EATING CAKE. ♪♪ I LOOK BACK, AND I FEEL, LIKE,
[Voice breaking] EMBARRASSED. UM… ‘CAUSE I JUST, I DIDN’T KNOW
THAT IT WAS REALLY THAT WEIRD. AND SO I TELL MY STORY NOW,
AND I JUST THINK, “THAT WAS REALLY
MESSED UP.” [ LAUGHS ] I HAVE
A 12-YEAR-OLD SON NOW. AND IT’S ACTUALLY REALLY HARD
FOR ME TO LOOK AT HIM SOMETIMES BECAUSE IT SENDS ME BACK
TO THINKING ABOUT, “THAT’S HOW OLD I WAS.” AFTER MARRYING
AT THE AGE OF 13, ANGEL SOON FOUND HERSELF
IN A NIGHTMARE. I GOT MARRIED
IN CALIFORNIA, AND THEN SHE MOVED US
VERY SOON AFTER THAT TO IDAHO SO THAT IT WOULD
BE PRIVATE. ♪♪ SHE KNEW
WHAT SHE WAS DOING, PREVENTING ME FROM GETTING
AN EDUCATION AND PREVENTING ME FROM HAVING
THOSE LIFE CHOICES. I REMEMBER HER SAYING, “I JUST ALWAYS WANT US
TO ALL STAY TOGETHER. I WANT TO HAVE A BIG
HAPPY FAMILY, ET CETERA.” AND THE WAY SHE COULD
MAKE THAT HAPPEN WAS TO TRAP ME. WE ALL LIVED
IN THE SAME HOUSE. SHE WANTED ME TO START
HAVING CHILDREN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE,
AND I DID. HE WAS VERY
ABUSIVE TO ME, SO DURING THAT TIME PERIOD,
IT WAS LIKE I WAS A PRISONER TO MY MOM,
BUT I ALSO WAS PRISONER TO HIM. I HAVE THREE KIDS WITH HIM,
AND IT WAS LIKE THIS GRADUAL PROCESS
OF I HAD MY FIRST SON WITH HIM, AND HE WAS
VERY VIOLENT TO ME, WOULD STRANGLE ME
AND PUSH ME. AND HE LEFT ME WHEN
I HAD MY FIRST SON, AND ME BEING A VERY NAIVE GIRL,
I WANTED TO BE WITH HIM. SO WHEN HE MOVED OUT,
I JUST BEGGED MY MOTHER TO LET ME MOVE OUT
WITH HIM. AND SHE LET ME LEAVE
WHEN I WAS 17. SHE STILL HATES ME TO THIS DAY
FOR LEAVING BECAUSE SHE WANTED US
ALL TO STAY TOGETHER. HOW DID YOU ESCAPE
THIS TOXIC RELATIONSHIP? I LIVED WITH HIM
FOR A WHILE. WE HAD AN APARTMENT
TOGETHER. I HAD MY SECOND CHILD
THERE WITH HIM. AND THAT WAS WHEN
I STARTED GETTING OUT INTO THE ACTUAL WORLD. THERE WAS THIS ONE LADY
WHO INVITED ME TO A BIBLE STUDY. I WANTED FRIENDS BECAUSE
I HAD NO ONE TO TALK TO AND I WAS SO ISOLATED,
AND SO I WENT. AND WHEN THESE PEOPLE
FINALLY STARTED FINDING OUT HOW OLD I WAS,
WHAT WAS REALLY HAPPENING, THEY CONNECTED ME WITH A LOCAL
VICTIM ADVOCACY CENTER. I STARTED GOING TO
SUPPORT GROUP, AND MY BUBBLE POPPED. AND I REALIZED THAT
WHAT I WAS GOING THROUGH WASN’T RIGHT OR NORMAL. HE WENT TO JAIL BECAUSE HE WAS,
LIKE, ABUSING ME WHILE I WAS PREGNANT
WITH MY THIRD CHILD, AND I WAS FINALLY
WISE ENOUGH TO FINALLY BUILD UP ENOUGH STRENGTH
TO REALIZE THAT THIS WAS WRONG. ♪♪ HE WENT TO PRISON, AND WHEN HE DIDN’T END UP
COMING BACK, THEY HELPED ME GET A JOB, AND THEY HELPED ME GET A PLACE
TO LIVE BY MYSELF, AND I STARTED, LIKE,
MAKING A LIFE FOR MYSELF AND REALLY REALIZING THAT
I DIDN’T NEED HIM AND I DIDN’T NEED
MY MOTHER. WHILE ANGEL HAD FOUND
AN ESCAPE FROM HER IMPRISONMENT, SHE DISCOVERED THAT HER FREEDOM
STILL WASN’T EASY. WHEN I WAS BORN, MY MOTHER NEVER
REGISTERED ME WITH THE STATE, SO I DIDN’T HAVE
A BIRTH CERTIFICATE UNTIL I WAS 20. I WAS NOT ABLE TO GET
A DRIVER’S LICENSE OR, YOU KNOW, SOCIAL SECURITY CARD,
EVEN A LIBRARY CARD. WHEN MY VICTIM ADVOCATES
FOUND OUT ABOUT THAT, THEY WERE ABLE TO GET ME
LEGAL HELP SO THAT I COULD GET
A DELAYED RECORD OF BIRTH. THANK GOD.
[ LAUGHS ] BECAUSE NOW I CAN DRIVE
AND I CAN, YOU KNOW, HAVE A JOB
AND ALL THOSE THINGS, BUT WHEN I WAS A SINGLE MOM, I WAS JUST IN THIS PLACE WHERE
I DIDN’T GET TO CHOOSE MY LIFE. [ SNIFFLES ] IT WAS CHOSEN FOR ME, AND THAT’S WHAT I THINK
MAKES ME THE ANGRIEST BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE WANTED TO
DO DIFFERENT THINGS. NOT THAT I DON’T
LOVE MY KIDS. OBVIOUSLY, IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT,
AND I LOVE THEM. [ SNIFFLES ] I LOOK AT ALL OF THE THINGS
THAT I COULD HAVE DONE OR THE PERSON THAT
I COULD HAVE BEEN AND THE THINGS THAT
I COULD HAVE ACCOMPLISHED, AND I DIDN’T GET TO DO
ANY OF THOSE THINGS BECAUSE MY ADOLESCENCE
WAS STOLEN FROM ME. BY CHOICE, I DID END UP
GETTING REMARRIED BECAUSE I WANTED TO HAVE
A NORMAL LIFE FOR ONCE. [ LAUGHS ] HOW IS THE NORMAL LIFE? THE NORMAL LIFE IS STILL
NOT NORMAL BECAUSE I STILL HAVE ALL
OF THE TRAUMA THAT I DEAL WITH FROM EVERYTHING
I’VE GONE THROUGH. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HELP
PUSH THIS ISSUE FORWARD? LAST SESSION AT THE HOUSE
IN IDAHO, THE BILL WAS DENIED FOR RAISING THE MINIMUM
AGE REQUIREMENT FOR CONSENT FOR MARRIAGE IN IDAHO, AND MELISSA WINTROW
ACTUALLY CONTACTED ME AND ASKED ME IF I WOULD
TESTIFY AT THE NEXT SESSION. AND SO I AM GOING TO
DO THAT. SO, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY
TO SOMEONE WHO’S IN A SIMILAR SITUATION
TO YOU? I WOULD WANT THEM TO FEEL LIKE
THEY HAD SOMEBODY TO GO TO THAT WOULD HELP THEM AND THAT IT ISN’T
THEIR FAULT AND THAT IT’S NOT RIGHT AND THAT THEY COULD HAVE
REAL FREEDOM FROM THAT. ONE OF MY FAVORITE VERSES
IN THE BIBLE THAT I GO WHEN
I THINK ABOUT MY LIFE IS THAT HE TOOK ME OUT
OF THIS DARKNESS AND BROUGHT ME INTO
HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT WHERE I HAVE
THE OPPORTUNITY NOW TO USE WHAT WAS MEANT
FOR EVIL FOR GOOD SO THAT IT DOESN’T
HAPPEN TO OTHER CHILDREN. YOUR STORY IS ENOUGH
TO DO THAT, SO FOR YOU
TO SPEAK OUT LIKE THIS JUST OPENS THE DOOR
FOR INCREDIBLE CHANGE, SO THANK YOU
SO MUCH FOR DOING THAT. THANK YOU. I’M CHARLIE BERENS,
AND THIS IS “THE DARK SIDE OF.”

About the author

Comments

  1. Religion is one of the reasons you are fucked up……and why would you go run back into another marriage??? Didn't you learn??

  2. she is now a child of GOD absolutely glorious praise the Holy name Of Jesus who is the one and only true and living GOD. HALLELUJAH!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *