April 17th, 2008
07:22 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: What is wrong with people?!

Erica Hill
AC 360° Correspondent

I am OUTRAGED by this story. I’ve been following it this week – finally, there is a decision and while it’s the one I wanted, I cant help but wonder if it was done for the right reasons.

In Yemen, a judge (thankfully!) dissolved the marriage of an 8 year old girl to a 30 year old man. The simple fact that any man could marry a child is disturbing enough, but to make matters worse, this marriage was consummated AND the girl’s father not only OK’ed it, he forced his daughter to marry a man almost four times her age. She should be playing with dolls and climbing trees, not being beaten and forced to have sex. It is sick and so, so wrong… and it happens more than we’d like to know.

The reason this scary reality is in the headlines is because this young girl is not your average 8 year old. Luckily, she was smart enough to know the marriage was wrong and strong enough to stick up for herself. Sadly, her family didn’t stand with her. This little lady didn’t let that stop her, instead she went to the court for help.

While the judge did end the marriage, he didn’t do it for the reasons you might imagine – not because she’s 8 or because he’s 30, not because the marriage was consummated, which in most circles is clearly sexual abuse, not because this man allegedly beat her, nope, none of the above. The judge dissolved the marriage because she "had not reached puberty." And the kicker? Her family has to pay “compensation” to the ex-husband! Ummm, yeah, I get it – here, take my daughter, violate her, mess her up for life and we’ll pay you!

Your tax dollars at work.

An Oklahoma sheriff resigns… after the sex-slave operation he was allegedly running from the jail becomes public – see here. Investigators say Michael Burgess even oversaw wet t-shirt contests at the Custer County Jail.

He’s facing 35 counts that range from bribery of a public official to 14 counts of rape. If convicted on all charges, the former sheriff could be sentenced to 467 years behind bars. Chances are, he won’t be duplicating his operations in that cell.

Another reason to feel great flying… and to be thankful for correspondents like Drew Griffin.

The bombshells keep coming – now we’re learning the government is so badly in need of air marshalls, they’ve resorted to using airport screeners to do the job.

Current and former air marshalls tell CNN the number of marshals is so low, the federal agency overseeing them has drastically lowered its firearms and psychological testing standards so it can find enough people to fill the positions. They also said many federal air marshals who have resigned and are not being replaced; instead, airport screeners are being brought on.

The TSA says that's just not true. Here’s the full story:

OK, this has been a grim news note, and you know I hate to be the downer in your day, so… a little pick-me-up before I leave you. My favorite book as a child was “Make Way for Ducklings” – my paternal Grandmother, whom I’m named after, gave it to me. When I was in college, I loved walking by the bronze Mallard family in the Public Garden in Boston, and I can’t wait to take my son to meet them.

So, in honor of the Mallards, Michael the policeman and my Grammy Hill… enjoy!

Filed under: Erica Hill
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Karen Watson

    Can you please tell us why we never see their elderly. We haven't seen one old person wanting their grandchild back. My sister and I are very uneasy about this. Our grandparents would have been there wanting us returned to the family. Please find out about this for us. Thank you. Karen and Catherine Austin and Lubbock

    April 18, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  2. Jessy - France

    Hi Erica,

    im so sick to my stomach. And it's not my first time to read such story. Last year, the magazine ELLE covered a 10-year-old afghan girl who's forced to marry a 54-year-old just becoz her father lost her as some sort of stake in a gambling. plus this 54-year-old guy has got like a bunch of wives. Literally, he could run a wives' collection.

    I perfectly understand in some part of culture, ppl believe in polygamy. But i would never call marrying a child and abusing her as culture diversity.

    And i wonder what do UNESCO, Unicef do? Where are they? Isn't it a more serious problem for people to pay attention to than the olympic boycott and the presidential election in Zimbabwe? For god's sake in some parts of world, people dont even have a safe and sound place to live.

    April 18, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  3. Hava

    The story about the 8 year old girl is horrendous! The "ex husband" should be handed a wet T-shirt and thrown into the Custer County Jail!

    Keep up the great work Erica! I love waiting for your reactions to some of the stories you cover. You..ahem....quack me up 😉

    April 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  4. elaine c., ambler, pa

    Hi Erica,

    This is the kind of story that I immediately feel my blood boil with fury over the inhumane treatment of this little girl. If I had the resources, I'd immediately fly there and pluck her up, away from all the abuse and excuses there, and bring her back here to live in America. If her family and country won't properly care for this girl and value her as a human being, then we will. Shame on them, and shame on the current state of world humanity, to put it mildly.

    Thank you, Erica, for keeping us informed.

    April 18, 2008 at 2:02 pm |
  5. Sharon Wright

    Erica, you're right that Yemen case is not your average but then I figure we haven't heard the whole saga from the Stepford Wives out of the compound in Texas either. Remember how Larry asked each of them if they knew of any under aged marriages and each said no. It's truly sickening what is going down right here at home....and I do mean home....I'm Canadian and we've got Bountiful to look into.

    April 18, 2008 at 1:23 pm |
  6. michelle: Ont,Canada

    Hi, Erica
    This story is horrible. I keep wondering why these kind of abuses
    keep happening to children of all people.This world is getting worse and worse with all of the weather realted damage and corperate greed taking over everything, gas prices,(eg)When wil it end?

    When Will Eveyone Care Again?

    April 18, 2008 at 1:15 pm |
  7. Michelle

    Thanks for sticking to real news, Erica.

    I also appreciate your expression of outrage. I'm a teacher and I wish I saw more normal reactions, like outrage, to abuse and tragedy than I am currently seeing. Maybe people have become so desensitized to weirdness and violence they no longer have what I feel are the normal human responses I witnessed as a child. Maybe many people have begun to observe the news and even tragic events in their community like a T.V. program...as an unreal event. The lack of empathy and the increasing emotional detachment I observe in our society is disturbing.

    Parents and people who work with children need to model and teach children that outrage, sadness and other human responses are necessary and important if we are to retain our humanity and compassion as human beings.

    April 18, 2008 at 1:00 pm |
  8. Taj

    Erica, most people who live in the west do not understand the other part of the world. That is why you are outraged or puzzled. It is not uncommon for an 8, 10, 12 year old to be married, specially from a rural area to an elderly man. They do not think about pueberty & sex and the husband waits until the girl reaches that age. In that society, the man is the provider & women are the helping hand to the family, happy to be married to get 2 meals a day, a family & security, later they have children and are quite happy and satisfied. They find happiness thru children, family & security. Poor people does not necessarily mean that they are unhappy people, richness (money or material wealth) does not necessarily bring happiness. In that society, drinking alcohol, smoking, guns, drugs etc are prohibited. Look at this western, advanced, liberal society. We have all the bad habits one can think of & what is the result of this? Alcoholism, smoking, drugs, violent crimes, divorce, prostitution, etc . There are another 100 things I can list, the difference between the west & the other cultures. So you have to understand the other culture & their way of life. They are not perfect either. My mother was 11 & my father was 30 when they were married. They raised 4 beautiful children all of them highly educated, successful & happy. Neither of them complained & were married for 60 years. None of us smoke, drink , own guns, do drugs & are healthy vegeterians. So, if you get outraged, you are the one who will suffer. Learn about other cultures, their way of life & you may appreciate them. There lies wisdom.

    April 18, 2008 at 11:14 am |
  9. Kimmie

    I don't know why people are relieved for this little girl. He father will continue abuse her. She will probably be stoned to death or raped by her brothers for punishment. In the eyes of her father, SHE has brought shame to her family. This is a horrific story that plays itself out over and over around the world. And for those of you that don't believe it happens here, wake up. Children are not kidnapped or missing in this country so people can be "raise them as their own" or be nice to them.

    April 18, 2008 at 8:19 am |
  10. Anna

    It is tragic what happens to little girls in the name of religion around the world. Even more disturbing is that it is happening right here in the US.
    Until people understand the religious dogma driving the abuse, the cycle will continue. We need to be concerned about saying things like "polygamy is ok between consenting adults." It is not OK. Little girls have their minds raped into harmful religious dogma and whether they are 18 or 30, they were coerced and brain washed as children into this so called "choice." It is not a choice if the consequence is damnation from God, loss of family and community, and identity. Just as the 14 year old girls were coerced into marrying Joseph Smith and other Mormon Prophets in the 19th century and couldn't leave the faith. Parents willingly sacrificed their children in the name of God to these LDS Prophets and to leave the church meant losing your salvation.

    Don't let those "independent" polygamists fool you either. They can dress it up in trendy modern day clothes and a mansion, but it's still driven by religious doctrine. These families that act like the ones on Big Love are "choosing" this lifestyle out of sincere conviction that it's commanded by God. They are teaching their children that it's the highest principle to live on earth.
    We can't control what parents teach their children but thankfully we can outlaw the abuses taught in these cults.
    Our government needs to make sure that POLYGAMY is prosecuted, not just the abuses of underage girls. Polygamy is destructive to society and the minds of impressionable children.

    In the Middle East mothers will help in the circumcision/mutilation of little girls sexual organs. Just as the Muslims practice the traditions of their fathers, so do the FLDS. We have to speak up and protect these children by exposing the dogma behind it. One positive we can find from the Iraq war is that these children have hope in breaking the cycle of abuse inherent in Islamic culture. Women will finally have a voice.

    April 18, 2008 at 5:18 am |
  11. Helen

    It is only too bad for this poor little child, that no one in the American media thinks that raping a child (in a Muslim country) is wrong. If there were any justice in the world, or any decency in the American Media, this story would get more coverage than the mormon story (where they have not actually even found a victim).

    April 18, 2008 at 1:28 am |
  12. Mrs. R.

    Thank goodness the girl was not only freed from the "marriage," but also removed from the father's control. I'd be concerned that the parents who testified they ignored her marriage complaints wouldn't also abuse/beat her for perceived disobedience and costing them $250 were she returned to their care.
    I wonder if she'll be allowed to grow up further or if her culture will punish/shun or Lord forbid, stone her for standing up for herself.

    Ms. Hill, please post again if this child's story is followed-up longer term.

    April 18, 2008 at 12:40 am |
  13. Dan E.

    Erica, I echo your sentiments precisely. It's a shame that there isn't an international law protecting children worldwide from such abuse, and disregard.

    April 17, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  14. EJ - Ohio

    It's sad what happens to women & girls all over the world. There is so much heinous, outrageous trash that they have to endure each day. That is one reason I know I'm lucky to be here (in US) even though I don't have a job. I could not endure the type of abuse that many women in Africa, Asia, Middle East endure. They would just have to kill me because I could not bare that type of abuse and nonsense.

    April 17, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  15. Theresa, TX

    Thanks for sharing the 8-year-old girl's story, and thanks for adding personality to the show and the blog. You and Anderson are great together.

    April 17, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  16. Mary

    Male privilege is global and many times involves the subjugation of females of all ages. The women emerging from the confines of the polygamist compound look like brain washed zombies marching in lock-step to male dominators. Is it any wonder then that Clinton has been made the scape goat for so much scorn while Obama has enjoyed pass, after pass, after pass. His questionable remarks, his questionable affiliations are always somehow deflected, excused, minimized, while her's are magnified, scrutinized and hung around her neck like a scarlet letter. This is known as male privilege – it has a name. How can we expect this country to elect a female as President when you see before your very eyes the economic and sexual slavery, the degradation, the devaluation still present in modern day society against females. What about the domestic violence in this country, the homocides committed by men against the intimate females in their lives. We have to have shelter sanctuaries to protect women from these predators. Why? Because women are still considered second class citizens. Clinton is a woman, Obama is a male. It's all connected.

    April 17, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  17. Ruth

    Environment, law of the land and culture. Just like the subject on children involved in Polygamus activity. There is clearly a moral deficit. Children and women are treated as an asset in certain places, and not as a person. It is just wrong.

    April 17, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  18. Jeana

    Hi Erica,
    I share in your outrage over that little girl's story. How anyone can consider that acceptable behavior is beyond my comprehension. But what will happen to this little girl now? Where will she live, and who will look after her? Where is the outrage from the international community?
    I hope you'll keep us posted on any further developments, should any occur.

    Jeana, Los Angeles, CA

    April 17, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  19. George


    It is disgusting, indeed!

    Problem is that we can judge the events abroad by our standards but they have their own ways of looking at it. Even then, a marriage of such young to an adult should be questioned by their society. May be CNN's telecast can reach and your questioning can initiate something that would make a difference.

    April 17, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  20. Renee

    Hey, Erica you are really bringing those memories back. Don't forget to talk Son and Husband on a ride on the Swan Boats in Boston! They open this weekend! We used to take maternal grandma on the boats every Spring right after Easter.

    April 17, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    What father would marry off his 8 year old daughter to a man 4 times her age? At least the child seems to have better sense than her father and was strong enough to seek help from the courts. I'm glad the court ended the marriage but the reasons given and the family having to pay the husband are ridiculous – women and children are certainly not held in high esteem there. We are so used to women's liberation here that we forget that places still exist where an 8 year old girl can be married off to a man. I wonder if the day will ever come when all people value their children of either sex equally and protect their innocence while they are young.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 17, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  22. Jim- Kearny, NJ

    Hi Erica

    I don't know why we deal with countries that treat their women and girls and nothing more than chattel. They've got their women convinced that it's a godly thing to dress in burlap sacks, shut ther mouths and do as the men tell them to do. Instead of doing business in these places, we should pull every dime out of their economies and isolate them until they decide to join the 21st century. Unfortunately, we know that the big players don't care one bit about human rights or dignity as long as the bucks keep rolling in.
    Very sad.

    For those who've never seen the bronze mallards, Google "Public Garden in Boston". There's a great picture there. They're really cool.

    Have a great night!


    April 17, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  23. Josie

    Erica, could you please let your viewers know how that brave little 8-year-old is doing these days? (Who is far stronger a human than the weirdo adults who forced her to consumate the "marriage".) One can only hope she is NOT living with her pimps, er, parents...

    April 17, 2008 at 9:27 pm |
  24. Slater

    This story is a perfect argument for being a proud American.

    April 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  25. Bill in Nebraska


    This whole thing with the news you are bringing us just makes me sick. To hear about this stuff happening out there is insane. The girl was 8 years old for god's sake. The judge should be shot just like the rest of the family members involved. It is all just sick sick sick.

    April 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  26. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Erica,
    You're right. It goes to show you that many cultures and many countries need to clean up their houses before they come harping on ours. The fact that it's so much like what's going on in the FLDS, shows us all, that as a world community we still aren't in the 21st century. Let's hope we all arrive soon.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    April 17, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  27. Marcus, Amsterdam (the Netherlands)

    Horrible story! Indeed, you're very right: It is sick and so, so wrong!

    April 17, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  28. Fay, CA

    The report of the 8 year old girl and 30 year old man is beyond sickening. The fact that the girl had to seek out help for herself when her own family wouldn't intervene is just mind boggling and the judge's decision clearly wasn't out of concern for the girl's welfare–it's just despicable.

    April 17, 2008 at 8:39 pm |
  29. Minou, New York City

    Hi Erica
    What a brave and smart little girl! The sexual, physical and emotional abuse of women and girls really gets to me. Knowing that it affects a vast amount of the female population in this world and knowing that nothing is being done about it, leaves me speechless.
    It's just a shame that the suffering of human beings is not enough reason for us to force a stop to the abuse. There always needs to be something financial at stake for us to butt in and help people.
    Apart from that, it's just unfathomable to me that men (and the women allowing this to go on) just don't realize that their traditions are abusive and simply wrong.

    April 17, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  30. Jennifer - Michigan

    Hi Erica,
    What a horrible story about the 8 year old little girl. Though it is amazing that she had the strength to stand up for herself and report it. Remarkable. It's crazy how the family has to pay the ex-husband, sicko.
    Cute little note about the Mallards. I like the way you have a nice pick me up at the end of your entry. Have a good day, hope you and Anderson have a good show tonight.

    April 17, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  31. Alexander

    Well, Erica, that was quite an interesting news note. I must admit, the earlier part was quite grim indeed. However, that last little 'pick-me-up' was cute.:) Hehe. Well, glad you could share that, Erica.:) Looking forward to the program later tonight.:)

    April 17, 2008 at 8:17 pm |
  32. Judi Smith

    Hi Erica I think you are so right about everything you blogged on today! My favorite book when I was an ABUSED child by my stepmother when I was 8 to 17 years of age, was "The Wonderful Fashion Doll" I must have checked it out from my school library at least 8 times! I could get lost in that book. I bacame a model after I left that abusive home at the age of 17 to move in with a man that I loved who at that time was 37 years of age. I am happy now I have been married and divorced twice since then I never married that older dude and I have one son 27 years of age. Love Ya Erica! Sincerely, Judi Smith – Warren, Michigan

    April 17, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  33. Adina

    That is so sick, Erica! What is wrong with some people, sure is right!

    For so long women have had to endure these kinds of abuses and even in our society here in the U. S. it's still going on with the FLDS. I hope that one day all women will be valued as people not just as property to be used, traded and abused. I can't even imagine how they cope.

    April 17, 2008 at 8:12 pm |
  34. Yen

    I was equally outraged when I read the Yemen story earlier. I can't believe her family has to pay any form of compensation. If anything, the ex-husband should be punished for sexual abuse. I wonder what will happen to her since her family forced her into this marriage and didn't support her in the divorce case.

    April 17, 2008 at 8:06 pm |
  35. Mike from Syracuse NY


    We keep hearing how we should embrace diversity and respect other cultures. A culture that allows events like your first item deserves no respect. People need to realize that our differences with radical Islam aren't just debate topics. How we deal with them will decide whether the world ends up like Yemen or like the democracies of the West. It's us or them! How many 9/11's have to happen before we realize it?

    April 17, 2008 at 8:06 pm |
  36. Lilibeth

    Erica, my stomach literally turned when I read the Yemeni girl’s story. I’m just glad that she was smart enough to go to court on her own. Her family is even sicker than the man she was married to. Why are young girls so violated in this world? We haven’t even come to a closure yet on the polygamist story, and along comes this story. Why is this allowed to happen?

    That sheriff...yikes...more sexually sick people. Jail time is not enough for this repulsive man. I know of a better and more just punishment, but I better not say it here.

    I have to visit Boston one of these days to see the bronze mallard family. They sound so cute.

    See you tonight.

    Edmonds, Washington

    April 17, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  37. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    Some day you might want to take your son to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN to witness their daily duck parade. It might even be available on-line.

    The other stories you wrote about just make my heart ache too much to comment on them.

    April 17, 2008 at 7:55 pm |
  38. Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada

    Wow Erica your note is kind of depressing for such a lovely day. I was expecting more stories of picnics with your family

    The story of the 8 year old girl is horrendous. The man could be her father. Even if the reasons were ridiculous at least this girl is now out of this situation

    April 17, 2008 at 7:45 pm |