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.