I had noticed a change in my nine-year-old daughter over the past several months. She seemed upset a lot and moody, but, at first, I credited it to an early-entry into the tween years. When her mood didn’t change, I started prodding a bit, but she continued to shut me down. She didn’t want to spend time as a family, and she stopped playing with her little sister and brother. She also started complaining about the soccer team she was a part of that summer.
Her coach had been a longtime family friend, and he was a well-respected member of the community, church and had been a soccer coach for our grade school and high school for over ten years. I thought my kids loved him, and we trusted him like a family member with our kids.
When my daughter started complaining, I called her coach and asked him if he had noticed anything with her skills and interactions with her teammates; he said he really hadn’t noticed much, but he told me that he would encourage our daughter more and try to see what the issue was. My husband and I also tried to “reason” with her: she had always loved soccer and she was one of the best players on the team. Yes, she was young, and if she didn’t want to play anymore, then that was her choice, but we encouraged her to at least stick it out, for the sake of her team and her coach, through the rest of the summer.
Our daughter became more emotional in the weeks to come, and once, refused to go to practice altogether, even though it was the last practice before their last summer tournament. She was so angry seeming, and she through what appeared to be a full-out tantrum. We were upset, and she was upset, and in the heat of the moment, our daughter, through tears, exposed the real reason she didn’t want to go to soccer practice anymore:
“He made me do things I didn’t want to do!!!!”
We didn’t even know to whom she could be referring at first, but we learned. This well-respected man, her coach and our friend, was making our daughter do things she didn’t want to do. And, even though we wished that she was just talking about extra drills, we later learned that things had escalated to the point that this man was making our daughter preform oral sex on him. He had exposed her to pornography and even taken pictures of her and threatened her—that if she told anyone, he would show all of her friends and family the pictures that he had taken of her, and she would be in trouble. The shame and embarrassment and feat had kept her quiet all summer.
Later, we learned that our daughter was just one of many victims. It made us long for justice and also for a rewind on our life and our daughter’s life. Since then, our whole family has received extensive counseling. Our daughter has received help for the trauma and abuse that she suffered, and she is doing much better, although healing is a long road.
My husband and I both wish, desperately, that we had looked out more for warning signs and also had some early, open and honest conversations with our daughter about her body and about sex. We wished that, rather than avoiding the “sex talk”, we had educated our daughter: that she is a prize, that she can always say “no”, and that no one should EVER touch her in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable. Even if we had had those conversations, things still could have happened, but I am writing you hear, today, to let you know that you don’t want to wait until it’s too late. Whether it’s purity, sex abuse, pornography, masturbation or anything along those lines, our kids need our protection, guidance, honesty and support navigating this broken world. We have had so many conversations with our kids now—trying to do the best we can to better guide and protect them in the future—I hope you will take time today to be open and honest with them about how much they matter to you and how much their bodies matter to the Lord.
For more about leading an open and honest life, be sure to check out XXXchurch.com founder Craig Gross’ new book: “Open” available here. For excellent resources on sex abuse prevention, check out Darkness to Light.