The father and stepmother of the Texas girl seen screaming for help in a viral video sparking theb #StandWithSophie campaign have 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.
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 told DailyMail.com 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.
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.
Nine-year-old Sophie, from Texas, has sparked the #StandWithSophie campaign after she was seen a viral video posted by her biological father (above with Sophie). claiming her mother’s fiancé sexually assaults her. Michael and his wife now want full custody of all three children after Sophie began opening up about the abuse she says she has endured at the hands of her mother’s fiancé at the start of June
Sophie’s father Michael and his wife Kourtney sat down with DailyMail.com for an exclusive interview where they say they are wracked with guilt over the alleged abuse
A private Facebook group called Stand With Sophie has over 120,000 members who are raising awareness about Sophie’s case
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.’
Sophie and her two brothers, aged seven and six, are currently with their father but have been at the center of an increasingly bitter custody battle since 2015 when their parents divorced.
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.
The couple now want full custody of all three children after Sophie began opening up about the abuse she says she has endured at the hands of her mother’s fiancé, 39, at the start of June.
Michael is pictured with Sophie. On Thursday the judge allowed him custody of Sophie and her two brothers over the holiday weekend and Zoom visits every day
Sophie is pictured with stepmom Kourtney who started a GoFundMe to help with legal fees in the custody battle
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’s father and stepmother are pictured. They say they’ve spent $30,000 fighting to get custody of Sophie and have now decided to go public
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.
Sophie claims she is being sexual abused by her mother’s fiancé in a heartbreaking video that’s gone viral
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.’
Sophie is seen telling her grandmother, who is her biological mother’s mother, of abuse during a custody exchange. She is seen screaming and crying as she refuses to go with her grandmother
The video of Sophie pleading to stay with her father Michael has gained half a million views
This photo was shared in Michael’s video showing Sophie on a gurney with a bandaged ankle
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 are due to go back to their mother again once that ends.
Michael and Kourtney say they will fight that tooth and nail. Michael said: ‘I honestly don’t want to think about it and I don’t know how I can.
‘I’m a father who cares about my daughter and am willing to risk everything to make sure that she’s safe and that will never stop and that will go until I can go no more and come Monday, we’re going to find out what has to be done.
‘But justice has to be served, it’s non-negotiable and we can’t have her go back into a situation where she could be hurt again.
‘I should never have been put in this position in the first place but now that I have, I’ll do everything I can to protect her.’
Kourtney added: ‘It enrages me. I cannot even understand how you can hear her scream like that, hear the things that have been done to them.
‘She can beg you not to be returned into this horrific situation, telling you what’s been done to them, telling you what’s going to happen, that they’ve told her they’re going to kill her…
‘They scared the heck out of the kids this past week and I just don’t understand how anyone could get behind that.
‘Even if it’s legally correct or we haven’t filed the right things. We have fought with every ounce of ourselves ever since we found out what’s going on to try and protect her from that situation.
‘I can barely comprehend how [the legal system] is shoving this child who is screaming for help into a vehicle with her abusers and then threatening to arrest us for trying to prevent that.
Outside court on Thursday, a handful of protesters waved signs and demonstrated their support for Sophie – calling for her to be returned to her father immediately
Sophie and her two younger brothers are in the center of a bitter custody battle in Frisco, Texas, between her parents Michael and Kelly
Michael says 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.’