Father Wins Full Custody of His 9-Year-Old Daughter Who Sparked Standwithsophie Campaign
“Why don’t you believe me? Daddy, please help me… He won’t stop touching me…”
In one of the most heartbreaking videos to ever hit social media in the past decade, a devastated 9-year-old girl, Sophie, was seen crying and screaming as she tried to explain to her grandmother that she was being molested.  Sophie’s divorced parents have been battling for custody of the girl and her two younger brothers for five years. She was occasionally stuck with her mother and the woman’s fiancé, a certain Jacob Wayne, from Frisco, Texas, who Sophie said was sexually abusing her with his friends. The girl’s gut-wrenching cries were ignored by the grandmother who kept pulling her out to go back into the same house where she was being relentlessly hurt. She put up a pain-ridden fight, trying to find the words to explain the pain and dehumanization she suffered.
When the video hit the internet, a hashtag #StandWithSophie was sparked as millions of people plastered it all over major pages and comment sections, calling on powerful voices in the American justice system to rescue the poor girl into her father’s care. Even her GoFundMe campaign for legal fees with a goal of $25,000 has surpassed $206,000 as of September 14.
Thankfully, last week, Sophie’s father, Michael Long was awarded custody of Sophie and his two other children.  They will remain in his care, away from the abusers until November when the final trial for custody with his ex-wife, Kelly Marie Mitton, Sophie’s mother, would take place. The father plans to enroll his children in a school in Seguin, Texas, where he lives.
Guilty over her suffering
In an exclusive interview with Daily Mail, Michael and his new wife, Kourtney Chalmers said they are laden with guilt over the pain and torture Sophie has endured for a long time.  It also seems Sophie is not the only one being abused. Her younger brother once told Kourtney that when he’s at his mother’s, he doesn’t sleep at night because “they get them in the dark”.
Sophie’s stepmom said the once happy, bubbly, and confident little girl is now a mere shadow of her former self.
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.”
The legal decision that nearly ruined three young lives
Michael and Kourtney said they’ve been drained of their life savings and even gave up their hopes of buying their own home to afford the endless custody battles since the divorce.
Michael was initially denied custody of the children because he couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer during the early trials. Kelly, who had a lawyer, was awarded custody of the children and Michael was only allowed supervised visitations.
In 2016, after he got together with Kourtney, she helped him source funds for legal fees and they dove into another exhausting series of custody battles. After $30,000 and several emotionally exhausting court appearances, the children were only occasionally allowed to visit their father.
While they doubled their efforts after learning of the children’s suffering, Michael says even Child Protective Services failed to protect his young ones. He was eventually forced to post the heartbreaking video online after they ran out of options.
“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,” Michael said. “The legal system failed us miserably. I knew the only way to protect Sophie was to record everything.”
Michael said he posted the video since his voice would not be taken seriously. He was completely out of options and funds to push the case, but he wasn’t willing to give up. If no one would listen to him, maybe people would listen to his daughter.
“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,” Michael said.
Thankfully, it worked for the girl as she’s currently in safe hands now.
“Repeatedly molested by Mr. Jake and his friends” – a heart-shattering story
According to her stepmom, the changes in Sophie started in 2017, when she was just a 6-year-old thrown in the middle of brutal custody battles.
Kourtney said: “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.”
Sophie revealed details of her suffering in June this year when she was taken to hospital to run some tests. The little girl had been complaining of terrible pain in her private parts. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with a yeast infection. However, before the appointment, Sophie had told her stepmother that she didn’t want to go because she was worried someone might take photos of her private parts.
Hearing such conservations coming from a 9-year-old was shocking, and the little girl later revealed that she had been repeatedly molested by her mother’s fiancé,” Mr. Jake” and some of his friends. Her mother knew about it and didn’t do anything to help her.
Further medical examinations and psychological interviews left the girl with another diagnosis: “sexual abuse suspected”.
The motivation for the viral recording
Michael said he’d been ordered to hand over Sophie to her mother for a 48-hour visit on August 14 when the altercation ensued. They’d agreed the ex-couple would not see each other and Sophie’s grandmother would come to take her from the car.
“What happened was I unlocked the car, her grandma showed up and it looked like an abduction in the back of my car,” Michael said. “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.”
Michael said he’d felt so powerless, helpless, and weak in those devastating moments, but he would never give up on his child.
“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.”
Now that Sophie is with her father and stepmom until November, the girl can hopefully close her eyes and sleep peacefully at night. She would certainly require therapy to learn to sort through her emotions and manage the trauma as she gets older.
Her father says he feels nothing but intense hatred for the people who hurt his little girl, and he’s looking up to the American legal system to serve them overdue justice.
“They completely took her innocence away, but they didn’t take her power away and they didn’t take her will,” Michael said. “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.”
Watch the viral video below:
- “Sophie Long’s Father Calls for Trump to Support Stand With Sophie Campaign.” Heavy. Caroline Warnock. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
- ” #StandWithSophie: Texas girl’s mother pitted 9-year-old against father, made her ‘say sorry for loving him’.” Meaww. Namrata Tripathi. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
- ” Father WINS full custody of his 9-year-old daughter who sparked #StandWithSophie campaign after she accused her mother’s fiancé of sexual abuse in harrowing viral video.” MSN. Kayla Brantley. Retrieved September 14, 2020.