ROCHESTER, Mich. – Beckie Francis remembers sitting on her couch last year, staring in amazement as she watched Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts reveal on TV that he was a survivor of sexual abuse.
Francis turned to her husband and told him she could do the same thing.
The women’s basketball coach at Oakland University shared her story with parishioners at her suburban Detroit church and with her players. And now, she is telling everyone else in hopes that it will encourage victims of sexual abuse to seek help, and to assist parents and children to avoid what she endured.
Until now, Francis had not publicly disclosed that she was sexually assaulted by her dad, who is now deceased, from the age of 4 until she was in the seventh grade. Francis says she doesn’t know when her dad died and can’t recall the last time she saw him because she blocked him out of her life and mind after the abuse he inflicted on her.
The 47-year-old coach decided to come forward to speak out against the problem, in part because of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
It’s not easy to talk about, Francis said in an interview with The Associated Press. It’s something I tried to hold back and hide because I was afraid of what people would think. It’s to a point now, where situations are coming out in the media with all kinds of cases from schools, churches, everywhere, and I’m tired of it.
Francis agreed to emcee an event on Oakland’s campus Thursday night featuring Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused as a child and now campaigns for increased education and protection from sexual predators.
Merryn travels around the nation to get versions of Erin’s Law passed in all 50 states to require schools to adopt policy and create a curriculum that, among other things, would help children understand and talk about sexual abuse. The legislation has been introduced in many states, including Michigan, and enacted in four: Illinois – where the 27-year-old Merryn is from – Indiana, Maine and Missouri, she said.
It always a help when you have a public figure like Beckie, especially at a university, to come forward like this to encourage other people to not keep their story a secret, Merryn said.
Francis, who has won 184 Division I games over 10 seasons, took the team to the 2002 and 2006 NCAA tournaments.