FRISCO, TEXAS: Nine-year-old Sophie, from Texas, is at the center of a bitter custody battle between her 41-year-old dad and her 34-year-old mom.
The father and stepmother of the Texas girl seen screaming for help in a viral video sparking the #StandWithSophie campaign have said they are wracked with guilt over the abuse she has allegedly suffered and can’t sleep when she is with her mother for fear of what might be happening to her.
In the video, nine-year-old Sophie is heard accusing her mother Kelly’s fiancé of sexually abusing her while being dragged out of her father’s car by her grandmother during a custody exchange.
Now Michael, 41, of Seguin, Texas, and his wife Kourtney, 34, have said they are terrified of what might happen to Sophie and her brothers if they have to hand them back this week and cannot understand why the children are being made to endure an allegedly abusive situation.
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The GoFundMe campaign, which is titled “Stand with Sophie,” has been verified by the platform and is organized by Sophie’s stepmother. The campaign was posted on August 21 and originally had a goal of $25,000. As of Tuesday, September 1, campaign had raised more than $100,000.
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Michael and Kourtney also told how they have seen a once bubbly, happy child reduced to a shadow of her former self and said both of her brothers are also affected, with the younger boy telling his stepmother he tries to stay awake until dawn because ‘they get them in the dark’.
Kourtney said: ‘It’s really, really hard. There’s a lot of guilt – you try to think if there was a sign you could have seen sooner, if they were trying to tell you in some other way.
‘It felt just awful [to hear what she said] and you feel disgusted all the time, especially with everybody telling you right and left that it shouldn’t be this hard to remove a child from an abusive situation.
‘I just don’t understand why everybody just keeps throwing them back to the wolves.’
Both say they have faced legal obstacles every step of the way and claim Child Protective Services has failed to act on her claims.
They also say they were forced into posting the viral video after exhausting every avenue they tried in a bid to be heard.
Michael said: ‘It’s one of those helpless things – as a parent, you do everything you can do to make sure your child gets the help she needs.
‘The legal system failed us miserably. I knew the only way to protect Sophie was to record everything.
‘I realized we were completely broke, we’d spent everything we had, so you know what, if no one else is going to speak for Sophie, I’ll let her speak for herself. So I released it and we’ll let the world decide.
‘While nobody wants to be under scrutiny in that way and I certainly don’t want my daughter to be under public scrutiny for something so sensitive, I thought I’d let her speak up for herself rather than be put in this situation again and again.’
Sophie’s story makes for grim reading.
According to her stepmom, when she arrived to spend her summer vacation with them at the start of June, she constantly said she felt shooting pains in her private parts – to the point she was doubled up in agony at times.
She was taken to a clinic and a yeast infection was diagnosed. But prior to the visit, she told Kourtney she was worried that the doctors might take photos of her vagina.
Eventually, she told Kourtney that she had been repeatedly molested by the fiance who she refers to as Mr. Jake and some of his friends.
***UPDATE*** A judge on Wednesday awarded full custody of nine-year-old Sophie and her two younger brothers to their father Michael.