Amidst a growing number of accusations of wrongdoing against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), adult survivors are sharing their stories of sexual abuse suffered at the hands of scoutmasters. The emotional interviews are offering insights into some of the longterm consequences and effects sexual abuse can pose, even decades after the abuse has ended.
In 1972, Darrell Jackson was excited to become a Boy Scout. The now 57-year-old New Yorker told the Associated Press that he was excited about the uniforms — because they made him think about G.I. Joe — and was looking forward to earning badges for learning things like fishing and how to build a campfire. However, a year later, he found himself in a courtroom instead of at a scout meeting. Jackson testified against then 35-year-old Freddie Modica, the pack leader he and others accused of sexually abusing them.
“It basically messed up my life,” Jackson said, after admitting he later turned to crime and drugs to block the memories.
Raymond Luna, a 56-year-old Poughkeepsie resident, says he still carries psychological scars from the abuse he suffered as a child. Much like Jackson, he turned to drugs and alcohol in the years that followed, hoping this would help him cope with the shame he felt from having been abused.
Another survivor, 50-year-old William Stevens of Arkansas, explained the two years of molestation he suffered at the hands of Samuel Otts — a troop leader for the BSA’s Webelos program — left him feeling like damaged goods. Stevens told the Associated Press he’s lived with shame, embarrassment, and guilt since the abuse began at the age of 9.
According to the BSA, any troop leaders accused of sexual abuse were put on a list that marked them as ineligible for volunteering with the organization. However, of the thousands of names that appear on that list, it’s been discovered some of the accused were allowed to transfer to other troops or return to scouting on a probationary basis. Lawyers representing Stevens say that Otts was one of those cases, and was allowed to transfer to another troop, where he remained a scoutmaster for an additional three years.
The lawsuit against the BSA claims the organization is responsible for providing compensation to survivors for their failure to protect boys from predatory scout leaders. The suit alleges the BSA both concealed knowledge of predatory troop leaders and mishandled the removal of abusers from the organization.
The BSA has not commented publicly on the matter. They have, however, apologized in a statement from chief executive Mike Surbaugh, in which he encourages any other victims to come forward, saying, “We believe victims, we support them.”
Judges in New York will begin hearing testimony on these cases in August.