EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Laveranues Coles held a dark secret that caused him nightmares for many years, one he never told any of his New York Jets teammates.
The Pro Bowl wide receiver thought he was alone in his inner struggles, and too proud to let any outsiders into his personal prison. But Coles recently decided to free himself of his secret: He was sexually abused as a young boy by his stepfather.
“I haven’t talked about it in … forever, but I know that holding something like that inside has been a burden for so long,” Coles said Sunday after helping the Jets beat Miami 17-7. “For me to get on this platform that I have, having been in the league and have all the media attention that we have, I think it’s something that should be said.
“If it gets one kid to come out and say, ‘Look, this is happening to me,’ … I think it’s right.”
In a story first reported by the New York Times, Coles acknowledged he was molested from ages 10-13 while growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., by the man his mother later married.
He was only in sixth grade when the incidents started, but Coles kept it to himself. When a fight in school two years later prompted the police to question his violent behavior, Coles came out with the revelation.
“It still bothers you,” Coles said. “I mean, there’s certain things that you really don’t want to deal with, you don’t want to remember. But I had my peace with it. It’s something that’s not happening anymore. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and think about it, but now I’m fine.”
According to the Times, Coles’ stepfather, whose name the receiver didn’t want to reveal, was sentenced to nine years in a Florida prison in 1992 after pleading guilty to the infractions. He served 3 1/2 years, but was later convicted of another crime and has been in prison since 2001.
Coles’ mother, Sirretta, divorced her husband when the abuse was first revealed and sought counseling for the youngster. Coles realizes that coming out with this now publicly will reopen old wounds for the family.
“We’ll talk about it,” Coles said. “I love my mom and we love each other and we’ll talk about it briefly and put it behind us again.”
Coles doesn’t worry about what others might think or say about what he went through.
“I think with age comes maturity, and I think now that I’m a little older, I can deal with it a little better. … I think it happens to more people than we allow ourselves to believe,” Coles said.
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