On October 19, 1983, Trevicia Williams’s mom picked her up from school following an audition for the lead role in her school’s upcoming play.
In the car, Williams’s mom turned to look at her. What she said next left Williams stunned.
“You’re getting married today.”
Williams was just 14 years old, a freshman in high school, but she didn’t say a word. She told Good Housekeeping that listening to her mother was her only option.Trevicia Williams
After a quiet 45-minute car ride, Williams became someone’s wife. She explained to Good Housekeeping:
“I had to quickly switch from student to, ‘Okay, I’m going to become a bride today.’ I didn’t know what I was going to do; there was no discussion about after the marriage, where we would live, or anything like that.”
Life as a child bride wasn’t easy for Williams.
Her 26-year-old German husband, whom Good Housekeeping called “Will,” hit her. He couldn’t hold a job, and for a short time, they were completely homeless. She said:
“Not only was this abnormal and awkward, but this man didn’t have a way of providing basic needs for me like food, shelter or water.”
At one point, after Williams’s mom denied her request to move back home, she and Will slept on the floor of the church that helped her mom arrange the marriage.
It was then that Williams began to put her faith in God to help her make it through, and she began using school to distract her from reality.
The pair moved to Pasadena, Texas, when Will finally became employed, and Williams, determined to continue her education, traveled 25 miles each day to attend.
Then at age 15, Williams became pregnant. School was important to her, so she kept going. She recalled being pregnant at school:
“I was experiencing so much morning sickness, I threw up on the cafeteria table, and all the students were like, ‘Eww, gross!'”
Her teachers never knew about her situation. They thought she was just another pregnant teen.
Williams’s daughter was a barely a year old when Will told her he was heading back to Houston, where they lived prior to moving to Pasadena, to pick up some of their stuff.
He never returned.Trevicia Williams
As it turns out, Will was having an affair with a 21-year-old. A sexual assault charge stemmed from the relationship with the mistress, and he was sentenced to jail.
After Will left, Williams did what she needed to do to get back to school and to provide for her daughter. Williams remained married to Will for another year until she turned 17. She told Good Housekeeping:
“That was the legal age that I was told I had to wait for.”
Williams graduated high school at age 18, became a correctional officer, went to college, became a paralegal, went back to college, and eventually earned a Ph.D. in psychology.Trevicia Williams
Williams credits her ability to survive her years as a child bride to her faith. She said:
“You have to reach for something higher for something like this. There’s no drug, no alcohol, no relationship that is strong enough to bring you through something so horrific.”
Now, Williams is sharing her story in an effort to advocate for laws that would ban child marriage altogether.
Texas state Sen. Van Taylor authored a bill that prohibits a person under 18 from marrying unless a judge consents and prohibits anyone under 16 from getting married. He told Good Housekeeping that Williams’s testimony was an integral part of their quest to get Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to sign the bill, which he did on April 17.
“Trevicia’s courage and resolve put a face to the issue of forced underage marriage in Texas. Her story was integral to passing this important legislation.”
In an email to Dearly, Williams wrote that:
Most states still allow child marriages and the public at large is totally unaware that it happens in America.
To further bring awareness to the issue, she founded a charity called “Real Beauty Inside Out.”Trevicia Williams
She described the charity on her official website:
Real Beauty Inside Out [is] a successful charity helping mothers and their 10-18 year old daughters connect and grow through non-clinical, non-therapeutic based interactive seminars. Real Beauty Inside Out also emphasizes the importance of educating teens about healthy choices, decision making, character building, leadership development, entrepreneurship, moral development, and, protecting them from unplanned pregnancy and prematurely having sex by working in association with school districts throughout Texas and other non-profit organizations.
Williams told Dearly that she believes child marriages can be prevented by fostering a healthy mother-daughter relationship:
“When a parent is abusing their power to parent, and a child doesn’t have a voice, then states have to protect the child. Childhood is for learning and building their character so they are prepared for adulthood. It’s not for devotion to a man.”
According to FindLaw, 30 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, recognize the age of consent as 16 but allow children to get married younger with parental consent, 11 states see the age of consent as 18, and nine states view the age of consent as 17.
And as Unchained at Last, a group that aims to ban child marriage in the U.S., reports, an estimated 250,000 child marriages occurred between 2000 and 2010 in the United States alone.