Coach groomed player for sex: police
Details of the allegations against Steven Skavinsky, 50, emerged Tuesday after the CBC obtained a sworn search warrant affidavit authored by a Winnipeg police child abuse detective.
Skavinsky remains in custody pending a court appearance on Thursday.
He is presumed innocent of charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, possession of child pornography and internet luring of a minor.
Police applied for a search warrant to search Skavinsky's home in May after conducting a videotaped interview with the alleged victim. Police also spoke with her parents and Skavinsky himself.
The warrant allowed police to search the home for potential forensic evidence and seize items including computers, digital images, data storage devices and a sofa cover.
Text messages uncoveredAccording to the sworn affidavit police used to obtain the warrant, Skavinsky coached the girl's soccer team for two years.
However, it wasn't until May 3 that the then 13-year-old girl's mother noted she had been found near Skavinsky's home after leaving school early, the affidavit said.
The mother told investigators she found notes in the girl's room stating, "I love you Steve," Detective Const. Derek Charison wrote.
The mother also approached a local phone company to obtain copies of outgoing text messages from the girl's personal cellphone after calling the company and requesting them, Charison wrote.
The girl's father was also interviewed and admitted being "uncomfortable with the developing relationship … and was aware that they were texting and phoning each other on a regular basis," Charison stated.
The document said representatives of Child and Family Services were called in to interview all parties in May 13. After that, police were contacted and began their own investigation.
'60 times a day'On May 22, the girl was brought to police headquarters in downtown Winnipeg.
In a videotaped interview, she said that "the relationship was a normal coach/player relationship at first, however towards the end of the first season, it became closer," Charison stated.
The two began text messaging each other, starting "once or twice a week and then it became more and more frequent." According to the documents, the two eventually began texting "before she went to school, after school and before she went to bed."
"They would text up to 60 times a day," the documents said. "Skavinsky asked her to call him and they talked about her parents fighting."
The girl told them that the coach drove her home three times after soccer because her father had to leave early. Each time, they made a stop at his home.
On the first two occasions, the girl said the coach hugged her inside the home, but the third incident "got a lot more physical," the affidavit said.
The girl alleged to police that on this occasion Skavinsky had intercourse with her on his couch, Charison wrote.
After that point, the two began exchanging digital images after he requested it, the girl told police. The pictures became increasingly graphic over time, the affidavit said.
"Skavinsky told her that if she didn't send the pictures, he wouldn't talk to her anymore," Charison wrote.
He also encouraged her to engage in phone sex with him, the affidavit said.
Following the interview, officers asked the girl to take them to identify Skavinsky's home.
The allegations against Skavinsky have not been proven in court.
Police warn parents of grooming
It began innocently enough, the respected 50-year-old Winnipeg soccer coach forming a strong bond with one of his talented 12-year-old players. But how it ended -- with allegations of explicit chats, nude photos, Internet luring and sexual assault -- has police and child welfare officials warning parents about the dangers of "grooming."
The Free Press obtained search warrant documents Tuesday that outline the case against the accused, who was arrested last week and charged with various offences. None of the allegations has been proven and he is presumed innocent.
"This appears to be one of those classic cases where a lot can be learned," said Noni Classen, director of education at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. According to police, it was the mother of the young girl who suspected something was amiss and eventually uncovered evidence of the alleged relationship.
The girl was interviewed by police on May 22 and told investigators the relationship with her soccer coach was "normal" until the end of their first season together last spring. Police said she started confiding in her coach about ongoing difficulties at home between her parents, who were living apart. She said the first time he texted her was to say he'd "have a good time with her doing anything." They began exchanging texts a couple times a week, but they soon became more frequent.
"They would text before she went to school, after school, and before she went to bed. They would text up to 60 times a day," police wrote in their affidavit. The coach began asking his player to call him at home, where they would have lengthy conversations about her parents and other off-field issues. He began offering to drive her home after games and practices when her parents couldn't attend or had to leave early.
Police say the man made a detour to his house the first time he was driving her home. He allegedly brought her inside, then gave her a hug "for what felt like 10 or 15 minutes... it was tight and more than a normal hug," the girl told investigators. The coach then tried to hold the girl's hand when they returned to the car but she pulled away. On the second drive home, the coach allegedly brought the girl inside, gave her another lengthy hug and then began massaging her back and "whispering things in her ear," say police. Once again, he tried to hold her hand in the car, this time with success.
On the third drive home, their interaction "got a lot more physical," according to police. The coach began with a hug, then moved his hands under her shirt, eventually removing it. He also removed her shorts and underwear, moved her to a couch and had sexual intercourse. Police say there was a clear escalation following that incident, with the coach repeatedly asking the teen to send pictures of herself.
"He first asked for pictures of her head, then began to ask for ones of her body and would inquire as to what she was wearing," said police. Eventually he was reportedly requesting fully nude photos, which she complied with.
"He told her that if she didn't send the pictures, he wouldn't talk to her anymore," said police. The coach allegedly began sending photos of himself, first in his underwear, then more graphic poses. Police say there were more than 100 explicit photos exchanged between the two.
The relationship was eventually exposed by the girl's mother, who found notes in her daughter's room professing her "love" for her coach. The woman also contacted MTS to get copies of all her daughter's outgoing texts to the man, which were forwarded to police.
Police say the case shows how children might be targeted by people they know and trust, not random strangers. Classen said Tuesday that children who are targeted by these types of "predators" often don't see themselves as victims, which can make it difficult to uncover abuse.
"Often the individuals involved in these types of cases are very charismatic. The child almost becomes emotionally dependent on them, and it becomes very confusing," said Classen. "A lot of times they will come forward not because of the abuse, but because the abuse has stopped." Classen said parents must keep a close eye on their children in organized activities.
"You really have to stick to appropriate boundaries between adults and children," she said. The coach is currently being held in custody on charges including sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, possessing child pornography, exposure to a person under 14 and Internet luring.
The Free Press is not naming the accused to protect the identity of the alleged victim.