ENTERPRISE, Ala. (WDHN) — Ashley Pereira was only 14 years old when she began attending a youth group in Enterprise lead by youth pastor Jason Greathouse.
Greathouse, who was 24 years old when he met Pereira, moved in with her and her family after getting to know them. He soon began having sex with Ashley.
“There was the flirting that started,” Pereira said. “And then one day, after a sermon of all things, in my parents den, I lost my virginity to Jason.”
When she was 15, Pereira became pregnant with Greathouse’s child. She said felt pressure from him and her own mother to get married.
“I felt like what my mom pressured me to do was to make things right by getting married,” she said. “I was trying to do what I thought was right and everything was in the midst of trying to protect Jason. Nothing was about protecting me.”
By 16, Ashley Pereira had a baby girl, gotten divorced from Greathouse, and emancipated herself from her family. However, she is still forced to share custody with her rapist.
Last year, Pereira went to police and formally accused him of rape. Prosecutors charged him with second-degree rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but settled on a plea bargain of just one year of unsupervised probation. However, under this plea, Greathouse will not have to register as a sex offender.
Pereira said she decided to share her story to encourage other teenagers in similar situations to take action before it’s too late.
“It can help other people or other girls to take action early on,” she said. “No matter how hard, you are brave and you are courageous and take action early because the justice system doesn’t always do that for you when you choose to do it. My story is the perfect example of that.”
Pereira said that if you are struggling with a similar situation that there are organizations that can help all you have to do is to reach out.