augusta free press news

The scars of child sex abuse

I’ve known Kris Losh for a long, long time. Feels like forever. The news headlines last week, that have Losh accused of sexual battery involving two children, were a gut punch, for multiple reasons.

First, to this Kris that I know, or thought I knew.

My first memories of him were from when we were both involved in the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. We were both bigs, mentors to young boys from single-parent families in need of male role models.

For me, volunteering as a big brother was a no-brainer. I came from a single-parent family: my parents split when I was 13, and my dad was barely a part of my life even before the split, and, well, more on that later.

This one is going to be a hard one to write, as you’ll see.

When I was approached about being a big, I jumped at the chance, just like I signed on quickly when I was asked to serve on the board of directors of Central Valley CASA, a non-profit that recruits and trains volunteers to work as advocates for children in court-involved abuse and neglect cases.

Kids from tough backgrounds are a soft spot for me, given where I came from.

Getting to know Kris, I saw what a lot of folks who would come to know him saw, which for me was a lot of what I saw in myself.

Kris is one of those people that you like to say would give you the shirt off their back. Up through 2017, he was the host of a local morning talk show, WKDW’s “Country Club,” and he made it a daily staple to have a guest from a local non-profit to promote whatever good things they were doing at the time.

He also had me on as a frequent guest, usually talking UVA Athletics, which he also covered for the station.

His seat in the press box at football games was directly behind mine for several seasons. Many gamedays, we’d eat our pregame meals in the media room together, talking about the ‘Hoos, about baseball – Kris is a huge Orioles fan; I’m a devotee of the Nationals.

I eventually recruited Kris to be my replacement as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Waynesboro Generals. He was reluctant at first, but I was able to talk him into it by agreeing to stay on for his first season, in 2013, to help ease his transition.

That summer turned out to be the first of back-to-back Valley League championships for the Generals.

I remember that he had to miss the clinching Game 3 in the championship series in 2014 because he’d had a prior commitment to serve as emcee for a gospel-music event in Staunton that night, leading to me being able to give the dramatic call of a walk-off championship hit.

That’s Kris, though. He emceed events at the Wayne Theatre, local festivals, served as the reader at spelling bees.

When the realities of the radio business led to him losing his job at WKDW in 2017, he adjusted, landing a job with the Augusta County school system, and then, heading into this summer, with the Staunton YMCA.

It seemed so natural a fit. I’d have written a letter of recommendation for him for either of those jobs. No one that I know who knows him well wouldn’t have done the same.

Which is why I screamed out loud – literally – when I opened the email with the press release from the county sheriff’s office announcing his arrest.

I’m not the only person in my circle of friends who will admit to shedding more than a few tears since this news hit.

I might also not be the only one who has first-hand experience with sexual abuse in childhood.

This is where this gets really hard to write.

In my case, it was my father.

It’s hard writing this.

I don’t recall being physically abused, but childhood was uncomfortable.

My father often walked around the house completely nude, and it felt weird then, and looking back on it as an adult, it’s very weird now.

Even the smallest things – watching TV in the living room, eating dinner.

I’m not talking about some kind of possibly innocent natural lifestyle kind of nudity here.

He often had an erection.

He would sometimes insist on cozying up on the couch while watching TV.

It was … wrong.

To repeat, I don’t recall having been physically abused, but I guess the cozying up on the couch with a naked adult male with an erection would probably qualify as something.

This is so hard for me to write about.

For lots of reasons, I just decided, for many, many years, that I’d never talk about this, but then, you can’t just not talk about something and hope that the uncomfortableness magically goes away.

An incident in 2006 triggered me deciding to confront my mother with my memories of my childhood, and her response floored me: “I always wondered if you remembered any of that.”

It’s not fair of me to say this, but that wasn’t the right answer.

I was never as close with my mother, who passed away in 2015, after that talk, and I would never speak to my father again.

He died in 2008, and my first response, upon hearing the news, was, “Do I have to go to his funeral?”

I put on the brave face, even spoke at the service, but the scars of childhood will be with me to my last days.

And they came back to the surface again this weekend, when discussing this news involving Kris Losh.

He’s entitled, of course, to the presumption of innocence, and I hope to God that he did not do what he has been accused of doing.

I just know well how situations that do actually involve abuse heap a lifetime of reality on the kids involved.

I realized this past weekend, talking this through, that I’ve basically gone a lifetime not trusting people.

I remembered in one conversation about how I actually felt relieved when I was cut from the basketball team in eighth and ninth grade, and the reason was that I was afraid of having to take showers with the other guys after practices and games, and the only way I could avoid being exposed to those uncomfortable situations was to not make the team in the first place.

I assumed that until I met my wonderful wife, Crystal, that I’d go the rest of my life as a bachelor, again, the thinking being, people hurt you.

I’ll be 47 years old on Saturday; I’ll never be able to shake this.

I’ve tried to make the best of it, of course. It’s not a bad instinct if you’re a journalist if you don’t trust people in authority, to cite one example.

Maybe I’m not as good at my job, if …

On the other hand, maybe it’s easier to get me to smile in photos. My wife struggles to get me to smile when she wants to take a cute photo for social media.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m the happiest person that I know.

My beautiful bride and I are a couple of weeks from celebrating the 20th anniversary of our first date. I’m an award-winning writer, author, ESPN broadcaster.

I’m also still having trouble processing childhood.

That’s the other side to this story that needs to be told.

I hope to God, again, that this person that I know and respect didn’t do anything that he’s been accused of doing.

I also hope to God that the kids who are victims in these kinds of awful situations aren’t forgotten.

Their lives are going to be tough.

Column by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press