The father of the 9-year-old Texas girl seen screaming for help and accusing her mother’s fiancé of sexually abusing her in a viral video that sparked the #StandWithSophie campaign has finally won full custody of his daughter.
A judge awarded full custody of Sophie and her two younger brothers to their father Michael on Wednesday, meaning Sophie and her two brothers are now officially safe and in the care of their father.
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This came after his daughter Sophie was seen in a disturbing video accusing her mother Kelly’s fiancé of sexually abusing her while being dragged out of her father’s car during a custody exchange.
The video went viral and sparked the #StandWithSophie campaign urging for her father to regain full custody and protect his daughter from the sexual abuse.
DailyMail report: Michael will have the three children in his care as they await trial in November, where the lengthy five-year custody battle between Michael and ex-wife Kelly will finally be resolved.
Michael plans to enroll the children into school in his town of Seguin, Texas, this fall.
His lawyer Jamie L. Graham told Heavy that they are thrilled at the decision and said that the judge decided to ‘err on the side of caution‘ in awarding Michael custody.
In an exclusive interview with Michael and his wife Kourtney before the judge reached their decision, they told DailyMail.com 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.
The couple said they were terrified of what might happen to Sophie and her brothers if they were to hand them back this week and cannot understand why the children were being made to endure an allegedly abusive situation.
Speaking in an exclusive interview, they said they have spent their life savings on the legal battle and have been forced to give up their dream of owning a home as a result.
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.‘
Michael says Kelly was initially given full custody because she hired a lawyer and he did not, leading to him being granted only intermittent episodes of supervised access to the children.
But in 2016, with the help of then girlfriend and now wife Kourtney, he began battling for shared custody and is a co-conservator along with Kelly.
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.
Sophie was taken back to the clinic and tested for sexually transmitted infections. She also was questioned by medics and forensic interviewers about what happened – and now has medical notes that read ‘sexual abuse suspected’.
Both think the alleged abuse has been going on for far longer, with Kourtney explaining that the change in Sophie since 2017 is marked.
She said: ‘Sophie has always been full of magic, bubbly and just really carefree. There is a big difference now.
‘She used to feel good about herself all the time and now she feels not beautiful and that’s really hard to see.
‘In private, she talks so badly about herself now because she’s a beautiful young lady and they’ve made her feel ugly.
‘I don’t know if it’s all the things they say to her or things that have been done to her that have made it hard for her to feel comfortable in her own skin. But a lot of that sparkle, the carefree innocence… you can see it fade from her eyes.’
Michael says he has thrown everything into trying to find a legal means to keep her with him but has been stymied at every step – and at one point was ordered by a judge to send Sophie for a 48-hour visit with her mother alone.
It was at the handover for that visit, on August 14, that Sophie was filmed screaming and begging for help from her father.
He said: ‘The agreement that had been sent over was that we’d stay in the car, her grandma would come over and Sophie would make the transition.
‘What happened was I unlocked the car, her grandma showed up and it looked like an abduction in the back of my car. Thank God I was filming.
‘But this is the most helpless feeling I’ve ever felt in my life – my daughter was screaming for her life while I was holding a video camera and that’s all I could do.
‘This world is broken if that’s all a father can do to protect his daughter. I’m having to film my daughter getting assaulted in the back of my own vehicle and if I do anything wrong, my parental rights are going to be gone.‘
In the end, Sophie left with her father but, after a court-ordered appearance in Frisco a week later, was handed back to her mother, along with her brothers.
Kelly then took out a restraining order that prevented Michael and Kourtney from even FaceTiming the children.
After that was overturned, the children were sent back to their father for Labor Day weekend but were due to go back to their mother again once that ends.
Michael said he hopes the publicity will finally get Sophie’s case taken seriously and says he feels nothing but contempt for her alleged abusers.
He said: ‘They completely took her innocence away. But they didn’t take her power away and they didn’t take her will.
‘In terms of how I feel towards them, I hope they pay for what they’ve done. I don’t believe in violence, I don’t believe in death threats but justice needs to be served.
‘At this point, there’s so much evidence, if justice isn’t served, it tells me the system is completely collapsed and there is no justice for children in the United States.