The mother of a raped and sex-trafficked teen detailed in a Monday hearing how the school kept her child’s gender identity a secret and a court then withheld custody for months.
Michele’s testimony was offered during a period of public comments as the Virginia legislature considers Sage’s Law, a bill which would require school officials notify parents if a student is identifying with a gender inconsistent with his or her biological sex. The bill also clarifies that the definition of child abuse does not include so-called “misgendering.”
The bill is named after Michele’s adopted daughter Sage, who was brutally sex-trafficked and gang-raped after school officials, and then the state, intervened after accusing her parents of abuse for “misgendering” Sage. They kept Sage, who claimed to identify as a boy at the time, in a male children’s home for over two months where she was “repeatedly assaulted” and given drugs.
Michele, who is Sage’s biological grandmother, adopted Sage after her son died. Neither woman’s last name has been publicized.
Sage suffered from depression and anxiety when the COVID pandemic began, concerns which her teachers shared with Michele, she testified. (RELATED: Father Raided By FBI Found Not Guilty Of Federal Charges Alleging He Assaulted Abortion Worker)
“The transparency ended in August 2021 when Sage started high school,” Michele said. “She started a public high school and she told me that all the girls there were bi, trans, lesbian, emo, and she wanted to wear boys clothes and be emo. Because I saw it as just a phase it was fine with me. But at school she told them something different, she was now a boy named Draco with male pronouns. Sage asked the school not to tell me and they did not tell me.”
“No one told me but boys followed her, touched her, threatened violence and rape. Something happened in the boy’s bathroom but for two days the school told me nothing. They kept meeting with Sage alone, and she became so distraught they called me to pick her up,” she continued.
That evening, Michele found a pass that listed Sage’s name as Draco. Sage then told Michele she was a boy.
“She’d been jacked up against the wall by a group of boys, she was crying, terrified. I said just stay home, we’ll figure it out,” Michele said during the hearing. “That was my last conversation with Sage for five months. The night she ran, she went with a young friend she met online. She left a note saying she was scared of what would happen if she stayed.”
Nine days after she went missing, Sage was found locked in a room in Baltimore . She had been drugged, gang raped, and brutalized by “countless men.” The FBI told Sage’s parents to pick her up in the morning.
“We packed our cars with blankets and stuffed animals and arrived by 8:00 a.m. But we were told we couldn’t see her, and were summoned before Judge Robert Kershaw later that afternoon. They didn’t even tell Sage that we came for her,” Michele said. “We finally enter the courtroom and Sage appears on a huge Zoom screen from a prison cell. She looks tiny and broken, and I cry out, ‘I love you, Sage!’ Sage responds, ‘I love you too, Nana!'”
Attorneys then rebuked Michele for using female pronouns to refer to Sage, Michele said. The judge ordered Michele’s husband, who was “so tearful he kept forgetting the new pronouns,” removed from the courtroom by a bailiff, according to Michele’s testimony. When Michele told the judge she wanted to bring Sage home to treat her for trauma, the judge told her she would also be removed if she used the word trauma again, Michele said during the hearing.
“For over two months [the judge] withheld custody. He housed Sage in the male quarters of a children’s home. Sage told me she was the only girl, and repeatedly assaulted. She was given street drugs by the other kids,” Michele testified, adding that Sage later disappeared from that home and was trafficked again.
Michele later learned that her daughter had been told to lie and say she was abused by her mother.
“They told me [Sage] might already be gone forever, but I couldn’t give up, and I finally found a tip on her social media that led the marshals to her in Texas,” Michele said. “She had been drugged, raped, beaten, and exploited. This time I was able to be with her for the traumatic rape exam and bring her home.”
Sage’s grandmother says she suffered from panic attacks and medical issues due to the rapes she suffered, but that “she’s not broken, she’s just scared.”
“Sage says she doesn’t know who she was back then. She wasn’t a boy, she just wanted to have friends,” Michele concluded. “Let parents do our jobs, we know our children best, and we love them a million times more.”