By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
Published September 25, 2005
He didn't have to tell anyone, let alone everyone.
But something inside Laveranues Coles said the time, finally, was right. Back inside the Jets locker room after a two-year absence, he was moved by a sense of belonging.
He felt safe.
He felt secure.
And for Coles, these were new feelings.
When Coles, 27, revealed in a New York Times article last week that he was sexually abused as a child, he told us far more about the man he has become than the angry, confused child he was. Such admissions require courage in any segment of a judgmental society, but for a high-profile, million-dollar receiver in the rugged NFL, it takes something more.
It takes compassion.
"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 during a news conference in New York.
"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."
Coles, who was dismissed from the Florida State team in 1999 for his role in a shoplifting scam, told his story in an article that appeared Sept. 18, the day of the Jets' home opener against the Dolphins.
While growing up in Jacksonville, Coles was molested from age 10 to 13 by a man who became his stepfather. The abuse began when he was in sixth grade and lasted three years, until a fight at school prompted Coles to tell police what was happening to him.
Coles' stepfather, whose name Coles did not want published, pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor and was sentenced to nine years in a Florida prison in 1992. According to the New York Times, the man served 31/2 years but was later convicted of another crime and has been in prison since 2001.
Coles' mother, Sirretta, divorced the man and took her son to counseling.
"I used to wake up in the middle of the night and think about it, but now I'm fine," Coles said.
Coles, in his sixth NFL season, no longer worries about what people might think. His only concern is for those too afraid to speak.
"With age comes maturity," he said. "I can deal with it a little better and I just want to help kids, because I think it happens to more people in this world than (we) actually allow ourselves to believe. Coming up, I always felt like I was the only one that it ever happened to. Then, when I started going to different sessions, they let me know that it happens to a lot more people."