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Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Side

This post is far removed from anything I've posted about before.  It is a subject I've completely avoided mentioning.  However, as time goes on I've come to realize that I need to say something on the subject, I need to tell my side of the story.

So here goes ...

In February of this year I was looking for a pair of socks in my daughters room and found a letter written to her from her coach, who had also become a dear friend to all of us and a support person for my daughter (like a father to her) and our oldest son.  This letter was 10 pages long, typed, in a plain white envelope - no handwriting or signature on it whatsoever.  I glanced at the letter, was shocked, put it away, and later asked my daughter where it came from.  She told me and also told me that she wasn't sure why he gave her the letter, but that she hadn't read it because she'd started to and it made her too uncomfortable. She explained to me that she didn't show me the letter because she didn't know what to do with it, she didn't want to get him in trouble, and she didn't want to lose him in her life.

It took me 3 days to read through the entire letter.  It was extremely graphic and sexual and very, very inappropriate, detailing how to perform many sex acts. After finally reading it I alternated between crying and trying not to vomit.

I decided to sit down with the coach, his wife, and my mother to discuss the letter and its contents.  I wanted his wife to be aware of what was going on so it couldn't just be swept under the rug, and my mother there as my witness and back-up person (I'm too passive at times, I wanted this to not be that time).  In the meantime none of my children were to have any contact with the man.  Instead of having this meeting he showed up at my house, alone and uninvited, to discuss it with me.  As far as I'm concerned, that was intentional - he didn't want anyone to know, I believe.  He admitted to me that he wrote the letter, said he did so because he was concerned about how close my daughter and her boyfriend were, and wanted to "scare her".  I informed him that it was very inappropriate and crossed every line ever made, that subjects like that I'd handle with my child (and have never had a problem discussing with her).  He apologized and then asked if he could still drive her to sailing(?!).  I did also receive an e-mailed apology ... that said "nothing like that will ever happen again", not stating what "that" was.

The next day I gave a copy of the letter to my ex-husband (Jason) and he also had a talk with the coach, receiving the same response I did.  At the same time Jason looked through all of our daughter's emails and facebook conversations with the coach and was even more concerned and sickened by what he found (though there were also many conversations that were very positive and supportive, not frightening at all).

Throughout the week or so that this went on our daughter was very upset with us and didn't want us to do anything about the situation.  She did not want to get the coach in trouble, as she felt he was a father figure to her and a valuable part of her life, and was someone she loved and trusted.  One evening Jason came over and showed her all the e-mails and pointed out the parts that didn't sit well, the parts that looked as if the coach might be "grooming" her - where he mentioned that he was the only man she could trust, that he was upset when she didn't give him attention in a group, etc. (or he could just be a caring man, it's so hard to tell, and we're not experts at this stuff, of course).  I tried to tell her, gently, that I knew this was horrible for her right now, but that we needed to work to prevent something more horrible from happening to her or anyone else in the future.

Over this time I really wrestled with what to do with this information.  The letter was inappropriate, other actions seemed to raise red flags.  But we'd known this man for many years.  Nothing like this had ever been reported before (I scoured the internet and found nothing negative at all about him).  He has done great things with kids and great things with the community.  He has a family, children, grandchildren.  All around, we've always felt he was a really great guy.  It was so hard for me to grasp this, to believe it.  On the other hand ... what if next time it went further than a letter ... and how was I to know if it would or wouldn't?  Could I sit and do nothing and just hope that never happened?  What if it someone else's child had gotten that letter? I'd want to know.  These kids go to events with the coach and often shared a room with him, something we all felt comfortable with and had no problem with ... I'd want to know about this and I'd be pretty ticked if someone else knew something like this and didn't share it - it seems to me that'd be contributing to the problem, it'd certainly affect the decisions I'd make in the future.  When it came down to it, doing what we felt was necessary for our children and everyone else's children was the only option.

So Jason and I did two things. First we called the abuse hot line, to see what they suggested and whether or not they felt it was something to pursue.  The counselor we spoke with told us to call the police, which we did, and they actually called the police also - so whether we'd called the police or not the wheels were set into motion.  We didn't know if the letter and/or accompanying emails/facebook communications would be considered sexually abusive or obscene but we felt it really wasn't our place to make that decision so we turned it over to the authorities, the experts.  We knew that if they looked at the letter and thought it was nothing they would investigate and drop it, and that if they felt there was more there they'd do what they needed to do.

Second, we sent a copy of the letter to the directors of the sailing center and then met with them in person.  That meeting was very disappointing, shocking even.  I don't want to go into detail because the directors have changed their tune, at least in public, and seem to be working to create a positive environment for all the kids.

A week later the coach was arrested.

The day of the arrest the e-mails, messages, facebook posts, etc. began. What a terrible child we had, what horrible parents we were to allow her to do ___ (I have no idea what we allowed to happen here, no one would tell me that), etc.  The consensus seemed to be that we were the enemy and the coach was the victim.  I've seen the Lifetime Movie Networks shows, but I really didn't think it'd be that bad in real life.  It was.  Give it time, I thought, just give it time, let it sink in and feelings will change.  I was available, with the letter and any other information I could provide, if anyone (parent) asked.  I was willing to provide our side of things, just as I have above, and to answer any questions I could.  I guess I should have posted our side of things then, but I really believed the evidence would speak for itself and that avoiding conflict and moving forward was the best way to go, and I was sure if anyone wanted information they'd ask.  No one could believe the coach would do this ... I get that, I felt the same way ... however, he wrote the letter, plain and simple, and he alone is responsible for that.

Two families asked to see the letter.  And only one family supported us through this, and they are an awesome family (thank you again!). No one else asked. To just accept that the victim was the criminal and the defendant was the victim ... without even attempting to understand ... Give it time, give it time.  And yes, I'm sure there are some who chose to remain neutral, which is certainly fair and understandable and respectable.

We could have just walked away from the sailing center but my child(ren) did nothing wrong, I wasn't going to punish them for this.  I left it up to them to decide if they wanted to continue to participate or not.  Most of the kids at the center seem to have moved past this, they have either asked my daughter what happened or just moved on - kids are neat that way.  The adults, well, hopefully in time it will get better, it has quite a bit (I'm not asking them to join Team Us ... just to stop the blaming and unpleasantness ... or at least try to see the other side of things).

And then this week a new article appeared in the Fort Myers News-Press this week, which is what prompted this post.  This article originated with the defense attorney.  From what I was told by the prosecuting attorney, she knew nothing about this article until after it was printed and was not asked for information for the article.  Many of the statements from the defense attorney are untrue, and the last three lines/paragraphs are outright lies.  This crap never should have been printed.  What happened to crosschecking information?  What happened to unbiased reporting?  What happened to facts??? I have all the e-mails and messages, as well as the police report (which the newspaper has also) ... never, not once did my child ask for the information in the letter.  Never.

On the legal front, he was originally charged with a felony, that was dropped to three misdemeanors, because proving something is "obscene" is difficult, the definition is basically "you'll know it when you see it" so what one judge may view as obscene another may see differently.

Did we make all this up?  Did we want this to happen?  Was this some sort of vicious revenge?  Of course not. My kids have suffered so much because of this.  The loss of a trusted friend, the loss of a great coach, the loss of trust, the loss of friends, the hurtful comments, the loneliness ... my daughter has cried far too much and my son spent ages staring sadly into space.

Looking back I don't wish I hadn't found the letter.  I do wish it hadn't been written, I wish that whatever it was that led him to write the letter hadn't been occurring.  But I have no idea where this would have ended up if I hadn't found the letter and we hadn't reported it, just as I have no idea what the coach was thinking.  What we did with that letter and the related emails/messages was the only thing we could do, and I know we did the right thing.

And so that is my side of the situation.

33 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry that this trouble has come to your family, but you did the right thing. As soon as I read that the letter was unsigned, I knew that this man'sbehavior was consciously deceitful. Parents don't want to believe that their children could have been victims, so they just want the problem to go away. You took a stand for your children, and I applaud you for it. BTW, don't believe that the defense attorney "didn't know" about the article. It reeks of media manipulation. Keep your heads high. When the truth comes out, many will owe you their apologies and their thanks.

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  2. You did the right thing and protected not only your child but everyone's children. May peace be with you.

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  3. I am so sorry you have had to deal with such a difficult situation with you family and the community. Please know that there are people out there who support you and know you did the right thing. You said that nothing has ever happened before but you didn't want something going "further" next time. Here is the thing. Nothing has ever been reported before but most likely something has happened. He was in a position to be around many children and these things don't just start after many years of nothing. Hopefully this is the farthest he has ever taken anything but just know you did the RIGHT thing. In the end you are protecting your family and even your daughter will see what a brave and wonderful thing you did by reporting this.

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  4. You did the right thing. You never would have forgiven yourself if something had happened to your child or someone else's child. I am so sorry for everyone reaction.

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  5. you absolutely did the right thing. Your instinct told you that something was not right and you acted on it like I would hope any parent would to protect their children.
    I am so sorry you have had to go through the back-lash of ignorant people, but it will get better.

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  6. Jody,
    I'm so sorry this happened. The feelings, the pain, the uncertainty how could you know what to do? You did the right thing. We don't know...are there others...others that were just not as brave. You may hear soon that there were or years from now someone may come up to you and tell you something shocking that they were afraid to disclose. I hope that somehow your family can put this behind them. Stay strong.

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  7. I am so sorry for the pain this man has caused you and your children. You did the right thing. I have had a child predator strike in my family.
    Although this is a tough time for your family....you stopped something that could have been far worse,believe me.
    It seems that the press today will print anything!! It is hard to find the truth.People judge to quickly. I am glad you shared, so we can support you!!!! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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  8. Three cheers for you for doing the right thing. Don't let anyone twist you you to think that you did wrong. Lots of hugs to you and your children.How terrible if you had left this simply on your daughters shoulders to moulder through the years. Perhaps grief counselling for the children or maybe investigating how to cope with grief. Cherrie

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  9. Oh no! Your poor family! I am so sorry you guys are going through all of this and that it is like a bad lifetime movie. :( That is horrible.

    You truly did the best you could for your child! What if he was doing this to other's children? You did them a service. Maybe he will have learned his lesson, but if not, you know you stood up for your child. ((hugs))

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  10. I agree that the letter itself was enough to take it to the authorities and ask for their help in handling it. And although I am sure your daughter didn't ask for explicit sexual advice from anyone, even if she HAD done that, it would have been entirely inappropriate for a male instructor/coach to go ahead and answer those questions. There are doctors, family members, and others who can be approached about such things, and a responsible, clear-thinking adult would have recommended she go to someone like that. When you are in a position of trust, you have to be very careful not to abuse that trust, and this letter certainly is abuse of trust, at a minimum. That should be a warning flag to all the other families with children under his "care," and I hope they clear their heads enough to understand that fact.

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  11. Thanks for posting the story. I'm sorry that the backlash has been so rough. You really did the right thing. And...thanks for the reminder to renew my Boy Scout youth protection training.

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  12. Wow, what a terrible experience. I can't even imagine how you must have felt upon discovering that letter. I'm so glad that nothing worse happened - something to be thankful for??
    I just wanted to let you know I'm thinking about you and your family and I hope it all gets better soon.
    Jen (blog lurker)

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  13. I'm glad you got to vent this.. we are here for you!

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  14. You are so brave, and you absolutely did the right thing. You are here to protect your children, and it's what you were doing. I'm sure things are very hard, but I promise they'll get better. You're a good mom for doing something hard and putting your daughter's well-being first over any fear of community reactions.

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  15. Do NOT have one single regret about doing something to protect your children. You did the right thing. Just because other people are scared of the truth does not mean that you were wrong. I am sorry that things like this happen, but I know you made the right choice. I am proud that there are people like you who stand up for what is right and wrong.

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  16. Delurking here to agree totally with the other commentators. You absolutely did the right thing.
    Unfortunately too many people do nothing or turn a blind eye in these situations which is why it goes on generation after generation.
    It is higly unlikely that this is the first time he has done such a thing or thought about it and once started he was bound to continue.
    More fool those other people who think of him the victim, would they really leave their kids with him alone now?
    However bad it is now, stand tall and be grateful that you found out when you did. You may have prevented something far worse.

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  17. Your community should be giving you a medal for your efforts to not only "save" your child but many more. This man, no matter how successful he is, is sick and people close to the case know it. This is just another example of "money" and success speaking. Continue to be your child's advocate...hugs to you and your family.

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  18. I am so sorry this is happening to your family. But thank you so much for doing what you did. My family has suffered because someone failed to turn someone in before because they didn't want him to get in trouble or because they wanted to assume the best and give him a second chance - it devastated my family - you did the right thing. Thank you.

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  19. Wow, this is terrifying, and I got sick to my stomach thinking about it. You went with your gut and your mother's instinct. He is the one who did something wrong, you just did your job to follow-up. The people who do these sorts of things are very cunning and manipulative. He wouldn't have been arrested by the police if it were nothing. I'm sorry that you, your daughter, and your community have had to deal with this. It's shocking that anyone would not support you. I'm sure they'd think differently if their daughter's received a 10 page sexually explicity letter from a man.

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  20. I think you did the right thing, I'm sorry your family is being portrayed in a bad light

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  21. You absolutely did the right thing and should not let anyone tell you different. I am sorry that this incident caused your family so much pain and that your children have been touched by true evil. My prayers are with you, Keep your head up and know that you did what was required by any moral person.

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  22. Oh my goodness - I am so sorry you are dealing with this. But you did the right thing. As for the backlash, this too will pass. Hang in there and hold your head up high. His behavior, no matter the intention, needed to stop and you and your family should be proud of the way you handled it. You will be able to look back on this situation and know that you did the right thing and did not allow any other children to be made uncomfortable (or much worse).

    Hugs.

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  23. You should be commended for your response and I'm sorry that the other parents do not see it that way. I'm so glad to hear that you did find the letter and acted on it, thus protecting your children and potentially many other children also. You and your family will be in my prayers as you struggle through the loss and betrayal associated with the situation.

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  24. Jodi, I agree with the commenters who are saying that this man probably DOES have some other "skeletons" lurking in his closet. You did the right thing. I am so sorry that such a breach of trust has happened, and I pray that someone more worthy of your daughter's (and other children's) wholehearted respect comes into her life soon to fill the hole this wolf in sheep's clothing has left.

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  25. A friend of ours recently confided a similar story about her daughter and a male family friend - this happened years ago and at the time our friend didn't take it very seriously. Now, 30+ years later our friend realizes she handled it all wrong and she is full of grief and anger and guilt. You absolutely did the right thing. xo

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  26. I will be praying for you and your family. I believe you did the right thing, and I am so glad for your families sake that you did report him.

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  27. Oh my goodness. You are brave, your daughter is brave, your son is brave, your ex is brave! You did all the right things, and in a very respectful manner too- despite the repulsive circumstances. Speaking up for and protecting your child(ren) is never wrong. Never. And everyone is right- I am SURE this is not the first thing this person has done. It never is. I am so proud of you, and your daughter, and your family. You are saving others from harm. Don't forget that. I won't forget an Oprah from not too long ago- child predators talked about what stopped them or what would stop them- it was when the child spoke up and told someone else, or when they feared being discovered and others knowing what they were doing. You have exposed him, and others now know. Even if they don't believe it. You have made a positive difference out of a horrible situation. Bless you and your family!

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  28. You ABSOLUTELY did the right thing!!! That man has probably gotten away with some stuff and your daughter was probably not the first. That line about "trying to scare her" is so typical of child sexual abusers. They are SO sneaky and that's how they get away with it for so many years until one brave family decides to take action ... as you did! I applaud you!! I know, I speak from experience ... I would have immediately gone to the police as soon as I'd seen that letter and demanded they arrest him. I know how difficult it is for your daughter and she will need counseling because she needs to realize what he did was wrong and she should not feel she needs to protect him ... that's how they get away with it. Shame on the directors and other non-supporting community members. My prayers are with you and your family ...

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  29. You need to always go with your instincts, because those elements aren't making excuses one way or the other. It's a natural response. This man is obviously very sick and on a downward path. You're extremely lucky to have interceded when you did. I can only imagine what was next on his agenda once he 'tested the waters' with this letter. If your daughter said nothing, he knew step #1 had been accomplished. These predators tiptoe in until they are knee deep and cannot turn back. Once they cross the line, they must decide whether they can trust the victim to keep quiet. If the situation is too extreme, well....you've seen many scenarios on the news. You are brave brave brave and absolutely did the right thing. Whether you are questioning what his intent was or not, it doesn't matter. She is safe and protected from him. That is the end result of what you accomplished. Would you really be able to live with yourself if something happened by sitting and waiting it out???? Would your daughter be grateful for THAT when she is a woman and is deciding for herself about relationships? Don't doubt for one minute what you did. One day your daughter will accept what she doesn't want to face today and will be determined to make the same choice to protect her children as you did, even if it wasn't black & white.

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  30. I am so happy for you that 1) your daughter is safe and 2) you and your ex-husband joined together to help each other through this situation. You did the right thing, OF COURSE! People are in denial and that's what perpetuates the cycle of all kinds of abuse.

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  31. I'm so sorry that you received the reaction that you did from the apparently misinformed public, whom you may have once considered your friends (and may still consider). This is why most times victims do not say anything - because we know that no one will believe us...so on behalf of all children who have ever been the victim of inappropriate talk, suggestions, touches, etc.. Thank you.

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  32. You did the right thing and if I were in your community you bet I would have supported you fully.
    This man is a danger.
    I am very sorry that you did not recieve the right support. Good luck.

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