ENTERPRISE, Ala. (WDHN) — Ashley Pereira was in the eighth grade when she began attending a youth group in Enterprise led by Youth Pastor Jason Greathouse.
After building a relationship with Pereira’s family, Greathouse who was 24 years old soon moved in with them and began having relations with Ashley, just 14 years old at the time.
“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.”
For a year and a half, this relationship continued, when Pereira became pregnant at age 15. She felt pressure from Greathouse and her own mother to marry the man who took advantage of her.
“I felt like what my mom pressured me to do was to make things right by getting married,” Pereira 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, got divorced from her abuser, and emancipated herself from her family, and now is forced to share custody with her rapist.
Last year, she 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.
Pereira decided to share her story in hopes of encouraging other teens who may be in a similar situation to take action before it’s too late.
“It can help other people or other girls to take action early on,” Pereira 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.”
Under this plea bargain, Greathouse will not have to register as a sex offender. Pereira says 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.