From Tracie: Grooming, Mel Hall, and Disclosures Of Abuse: What Parents Need To Know

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grooming, Mel Hall, and Disclosures Of Abuse: What Parents Need To Know

Last week I read a blog post from Mike at Child Abuse Survivor. He highlighted a news story about the rapist, child abuser, and former professional baseball player Mel Hall, pointing out how the article shows exactly how a predator grooms both his victim and their families to gain access to the child he is going to abuse. Mike was absolutely right in his observation. In reading the accounts in this article, you can see the step by step progression, and I think it would be good for all parents to see how easy it was for the families to fall right into his trap.

But there was something else in that news story that stood out to me. One of his victims, identified as Katie in the article, disclosed what happened to her.
The next day in school, she blurted out to her best friend, "Mel Hall raped me," but she made the friend promise not to say anything. She didn't tell her parents or anyone else.

"I think part of me was scared, or part of me didn't think they would believe me," she said in a recent interview. "Either that, or I thought my dad would've killed him."
Katie told her best friend. And she wasn't the only one who disclosed, another girl, identified in the article as Courtney, confided in three people in the years following Hall's abuse. In the case of Katie and Courtney, Hall gained access to them by coaching their basketball team when they were 12 and 14 respectively.

While reading this article, I was immediately transported back to my seventeenth year, to a late night sleep over conversation. There were four of us in the darkened room that night, when a girl who I didn't know very well told us a story. Like Katie and Courtney, this girl, Sally*, told us the story of a coach. I remember every word Sally said that night. I remember feeling a special kind of terror as I listened to her story, because at the time I was living behind a carefully built wall of denial about the sexual abuse in my own childhood. As she spoke, I froze.

Sally told us about her coach. Like Katie and Courtney, Sally was accomplished at her sport, and she was hoping it would result in a scholarship or a chance at going pro. All of her spare time was spent practicing or at her part time job at the sports facility that sponsored her team. Sally's coach was a former professional player, and it was a big deal to be on his team. Employed by the sports facility, he coached, gave private lessons to select people, and traveled with the team for out of town tournaments. He was also one of Sally's bosses.

It was these out of town tournaments that Sally told us about first. Girls whose parents didn't come on the trip being told they should stay in his hotel room to help the team save money. She told us about the abuse and assaults that happened on those nights, and the continued abuse that happened once they returned home.

Although I remember every word Sally said, I do not remember what was said to her in response. I think I managed a, "That's horrible, maybe you could tell someone?" not thinking about the fact she was telling someone right then - three someones. Three someones, who, to my knowledge, never said a word about it after that night. Sally asked us not to say anything to anyone, and we solemnly promised to honor her request.

We all left the next morning after breakfast, and I don't think I ever spoke to Sally again. Like I said, I didn't really know her, and our paths never crossed after that morning. I thought of her, though. Not every day, certainly, but I thought of her when I passed the sports facility. I thought of her years later when, after starting to deal with the abuse in my childhood, I would drive out of my way to avoid passing the sports facility because I had such guilt about my inaction after that sleep over. And I thought of her last week when I read the article about Mel Hall.

This is what I know to be true: we were not prepared for Sally's disclosure. It wasn't that we didn't care. Even through the haze of my denial, I cared. I think it was more a case of not knowing who or how to tell. It didn't happen to us, we didn't actually know the coach's name (although I could have easily learned it with one phone call to the sports facility), we couldn't prove anything. I didn't know how to help myself, and I didn't know how to help Sally. As true as that is, these excuses feel flimsy to me now. If Sally sat in a darkened room with me today, and told me this story, I know exactly what I would say to her. There would be no promises of silence. The police, her parents, and the sports facility would all be informed immediately, and this story would have a much different ending.

After reading the article about Mel Hall, and thinking about Sally for the last week, I realized something... We teach our children about their bodies and proper names for their private areas. We tell them they don't have to obey adults, or anyone else. We give them tools to protect themselves. We have open and honest, age-appropriate conversations about both sexual abuse and healthy sex. We might even tell them about our own stories of surviving childhood sexual abuse. (I hope you are having all these talks with your children, and more, starting well before they hit the puberty years. If not, please start today.) But there is a conversation that many parents miss: telling our children what to do if someone else discloses abuse to them. This is the next, and very needed, step.

There are many reasons why most abused children don't tell the adults in their world about the abuse that is happening behind closed doors. Some children and teens won't tell anyone until later in life, if at all. But there are kids out there who are telling the people with whom they feel comfortable; they are telling their friends. Or maybe, like Sally (and like me), they are telling a peer who they don't know very well. And those friends and peers don't often know what to do or how to respond.

It is our job, as parents and as citizens of this world, to prepare our children for the possibility of being on the receiving end of one of these disclosures about abuse or rape.

It starts with open communication. Talk about everything. As your children get older, you can show them the very real statistics of child abuse and rape. Let your children know you will always be on their side, and give them a safe place to share. Let them know you will also extend that safe place to anyone they know who might need it.

Your child, and you, could very well help to save a life.

*Sally is not the real name of the girl at the sleep over.


  1. Tracie, I think I would have as a teen reacted the same way. My parents never told me not to specifically share one way or the other, but still you are right it makes a world of difference if you do teach your kids how and why to openly communicate. Thank you always for being so vey open and honest here, too.

  2. Your story gave me chills. I do agree completely that arming children with knowledge and information is absolutely necessary. We have already started the conversations in my home and will continue to have them. I think I will add to the conversation about what they should do if a friend ever confides in them as well. Thank you.-Ashley

  3. You're absolutely right. I think kids understand that what they are being told is a bad thing, but not what to do with that information. It feels private. And taboo. And uncomfortable to talk about with parents. But they need to know how important it is to talk about it and to tell a parent.

  4. What an important blog post! I hope a lot of people read it because it is so important! Most parents do teach their kids to protect themselves, but they don't teach them so much about protecting their peers. :/

  5. When I was a child my best friends father was very abusive and her brothers ended up in care because of him as a child I didn't know about abuse I just knew I didn't like the man

  6. Traci about
    Hall you need to have your facts the girls lied! I know. Sorry that you got abused.
    These girls Did Not! Period.

    REMOVE this blog PLEASE!

    1. Mel Hall was found guilty in a court of law. He was convicted.

      These girls gain nothing from lying about Hall. False rape accusations are extremely rare, and even more rare would be several girls who do not know each other accusing the same man of a crime he did not commit. Their stories are true, and my blog post will stay.

  7. Please remove this blog of my Dad! You could take someone else as an example.
    I had enough of people mocking him do you understand. The girl lied Please remove this blog. Thanks for understanding


    1. Alfie,

      I am sorry for your pain. It is completely understandable that you would want to defend your father. I most certainly am not trying to mock him or anyone involved in this very serious situation. But I will not remove this post. I do not believe the girls were lying, and neither did the court, which is why your father was convicted of these crimes.

  8. I see your posting Mel's kids emails, They sent it too you! Shame on you Tracie.

    1. The notes above were submitted as blog comments, which are public. They were not privately emailed to me. Comments are shared publicly, because that is how comments are meant to display. If people want to contact me privately, my email address is listed in several places on this site (

      I accept no shame, from you or anyone else.

  9. LOSER! Too put the girls blog when she sent it to you personally too you,I have No respect or pity for you.

    1. I have not posted anything publicly that was sent to me in private without permission. If you are referring to the comments above, they were published because blog comments are public responses.

      I do not need, nor want, your pity.
      The only respect I care about is my own.

  10. Blah Blah, ,Blah Tracy !!!!!! Jesus is Coming ! That's Right we are telling the Truth" You know that Tracie You go Girl !!!! Thanks for sticking for US Go Girl tell them off....Ha ha ha .....We love you !! xox