“He had complete control over me mentally and therefore because I was his property and I was his, he was able to do what he did to me”

Elissa Wall escaped from a forced marriage and has written a memoir about it. She has also worked with the media to challenge people to intervene in similar child-bride situations.

She said, “I didn’t want to be married at 14. [Sect members] honestly believe, and I did and so did my mother, that God sent down inspiration from heaven, like a strike of lightning, down to the prophet. This was God’s word. And we were to follow it, obediently and happily.”

How can a 14-year-old girl raised in this kind of environment be expected to resist her oppression, or even to know she has a right to live her own life? And how can we prevent similar abuses in other situations where humans say they’re carrying out god’s will?

Maybe the most important question is, how can any of us argue with someone’s faith? Can one have a rational discussion with someone who says their actions are justified by an all-powerful metaphysical being that they really, really believe in? If a society believes that religion is an acceptable defense for some oppressions (denying the morning-after pill to desperate teens, denying abortions to women, denying marriage to queer folks, and so on), isn’t that a slippery slope we’re on? How can we give institutional support to some practices, and decry others as immoral, if we’re all using “god’s word” as a justification for our actions?

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