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Local man shares personal story of sexual abuse in Boy Scouts
Telegram & Gazette - 2/23/2020
WORCESTER – Robert thinks that at 55, he should be married with kids in college and living in a beautiful home. And with his master carpentry skills, he should have a successful business and probably even be wealthy.
"My résumé is pretty impressive now. Imagine what it would be like, if I was an Eagle Scout?" he said with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes.
"Being an Eagle Scout is a lot of work. Some presidents were Eagle Scouts. The Boy Scouts is building blocks to manhood, if you don't get (expletive) molested," he said with unapologetic anger.
Robert is among 2,000 men and counting who are being represented by Abused in Scouting, a consortium of four law firms across the country in their claims of sexual abuse against the Boy Scouts of America. The youngest alleged victim is an 8-year-old California boy. The oldest is a 92-year-old man from Florida.
The Telegram & Gazette has agreed not to use Robert's surname because of the circumstances.
Instead of living the American dream, Robert says he has lived in hell most of his life. He was a drug addict for decades and in and out of prison. He has serious anger-management issues that have led to many short-lived and verbally abusive relationships, including a brief marriage to a woman he met in a bar.
All of the bad times, he says, stem from having been sexually abused while in the Boy Scouts in a southern Worcester County town.
"I was sex toy for (the now-deceased scoutmaster) for almost three years. It left me a very angry, nontrusting man. I'm still angry, and I trust nobody," Robert said.
He recalls that it began in the 1970s when he was around 11 or 12.
That was also around the time that he began smoking marijuana. Later, the friends who turned him onto marijuana introduced him to sniffing cocaine.
His parents were understandably upset when they found out. He never got along with his father.
"My parents used to threaten me. They would say, 'We're going to put you in reform school.' Scare tactic was a big thing back in the '70s," he recalled. When his parents would make him watch the TV show "Scared Straight" in an effort to curb their son's drug use, he would laugh in defiance.
"I came from a good family. I was just a bad boy," a statement that Robert repeated throughout the 90-minute interview.
His parents told his scoutmaster about all the problems they were having with their son and asked him for help.
"He used that to take advantage of me. We were together quite often. I didn't see any other boys alone with him," Robert recalled.
Started with hugs
The scoutmaster would come to Robert's home and take him fishing so they could talk. He would sometimes give Robert a hug when he picked him up.
"Once, when we were fishing in Sturbridge, we weren't catching any fish, he said, 'Let's go swimming.' I said I don't have any shorts. 'He said, 'That's OK. We can go naked,' " Robert continued.
In the water, the scoutmaster would rub his body against Robert's.
"It made me feel terrible," Robert said, his eyes narrowing as if he was vividly remembering the incident. "I wanted to kill him. My father hated homosexuals. Plus, my parents were heavy Christians."
When his troop of as many as 50 boys went on camping trips, sometimes at Treasure Valley in Rutland, the scoutmaster would come get Robert from his tent late at night after the other boys were asleep. He would have Robert perform oral sex on him. A couple of years later, he inserted his finger into Robert's rear. That led to him later on to attempt anal sex with the small-statured boy, but he was unable to.
"It hurt like hell and I bled," Robert recalled. "He said, 'If you tell your parents, you're going to go to reform school. Your parents are not going to believe you because you do drugs all the time.' "
"I was nothing but a sex toy for that (expletive) head. I didn't know what that (expletive) was. I was kissing girls in the eighth grade. That was the norm," he said.
Robert finally got to a point where he would squirm and try to fight the scoutmaster off. After achieving the rank of Life Scout, the teen had all his merit badges to become an Eagle Scout. But when the scoutmaster said he was going to supervise his project, Robert quit the Scouts, which did not set well with his parents.
He never told anybody what happened to him except his mother when she was on her dying bed 12 years ago. He said his mother had Alzheimer's, but he believes she understood when he told her that he quit the Scouts because the scoutmaster had molested him. She looked at him and said, "Rob," though she didn't remember most family members.
His love of sports, particularly hockey, which he said was very good at, helped him stay in school to graduate. Afterward, he served in the Marine Corps for three years. When he got out, he married a woman he met in a bar, but the marriage didn't last. He admits that the marriage was not based on love but lust. But his anger was also a problem.
In 1993, he earned a bachelor's degree in urban studies from Assumption College. The average pay for someone in that field was only $28,000, he said, so he went back into construction. He had experience from having worked summers with his grandfather, who had a successful home-building company in a nearby town.
Moved to the West Coast
Cheaper drugs lured him to move to California in 1996. He started doing heroin and methamphetamine in his late 30s. Heroin, he said, made him feel warm and happy. But it also caused him to overdose four times and spend several stints behind bars for drug possession and probation violation, often for more drug charges and failing to abide by restraining orders.
He was never physically abusive, he said, but his anger-management and trust issues caused him to be verbally abusive to girlfriends.
Broke and more angry, he moved back to Worcester in 2010. The recession that had hit two years earlier had dried up most job opportunities. His mother was dead and he didn't speak to his father, so he bounced around from rehab to rehab. He said he never had a good relationship with his father, but he stopped having anything to do with him after finding out in his mid-20s that his father had molested his 12-year-old niece who babysat Robert as a child.
He chose to not go to his father's funeral. All of the $8,000 in inheritance his father left went into his arm. Robert, however, maintains that he was never a junkie. He was an addict. Even though he shot heroin, he still worked regularly as a subcontractor doing carpentry work in high-end homes, earning at times more than $100,000 a year.
"I would shoot heroin in the morning and then go work all day. After work, I would do my shot at night and go to bed," he said. "I always lived in nice houses and paid my bills. But I couldn't have relationships. I treated women like (expletive) because all I cared about was drugs and sex because of the anger issue. And I couldn't work for anybody, but I could work as a subcontractor."
Robert candidly admits that he has a serious anger issue, caused by the sexual abuse. The only counseling he has received was court-mandated group therapy, which he says was a waste of time and money.
After he returned to Worcester, he overdosed five more times. One day four years ago, after he came out of a high, he said he had a feeling that the next time he shot dope, he was going to die. He got on his knees and asked God for help. He said he has been sober ever since. That has led to other positive things happening.
"I still have problems with my life. But now that I am sober, I realize it is what it is. Nothing is going to change what happened. I have to change myself," he said with a calmer tone of voice. "I wouldn't have had that thought if I was still getting high. I'm ready to start my life now."
Seven weeks ago, he stopped smoking cigarettes and all his symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease dissipated.
When he was up late watching television a few months ago he saw an advertisement from the consortium Abused in Scouting, asking anyone who was a victim of Boy Scout abuse to call.
"I said, 'No way. Someone finally said something to somebody,' " Robert said, his face lighting up. An attorney returned his call a couple of months later.
"I told him about all the pain, the prison, the anger," he said. "It's all based upon the abuse. It has to."
Still has love for Boy Scouts
That has not changed his love for the Boy Scouts. Absent the abuse, he says, it teaches boys how to become better men. He calls it "building blocks to manhood." He hopes the Chapter 11 bankruptcy the national organization filed last week because of the mounting sexual abuse claims will not lead to the demise of the 110-year-old organization.
After four decades of keeping the secret, he finally decided to tell his story in hopes that other victims will come forward. He thinks victims should receive financial compensation as well as complete health care for the rest of their lives.
Julianna Evans, spokesperson with Abused in Scouting, said now is the time for victims to come forward. Now that BSA has filed bankruptcy, the judge in the case will set a date and victims will only have until that date to file a claim.
"After that, forever hold your peace. There will never be another opportunity," she said.
In the past 10 months, more than 2,000 accusers had contacted Abused in Scouting .Evans said the consortium receives on average 50 to 75 calls from men each week. By 3 p.m.Feb. 18, after the BSA filed bankruptcy, there were 5,000 unique visitors to the website.
"We think there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, who have been abused in Scouting. And this is just the men who might be willing to come forward. It takes a really unusually courageous man to admit this happened to him," she said.
Robert's attorney, Andrew Van Arsdale, with the San Diego law firm AVA Law Group, who is part of the Abused in Scouting consortium, attended the initial hearing the day after BSA filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Wilmington, Delaware. He said the 260 lawsuits that were pending against BSA and several local councils (none in Massachusetts) are now stayed and will be dealt with through the bankruptcy process. Since local councils did not file for bankruptcy protection, the question of whether they can be held liable as well was one of the issues discussed at the initial hearing, he said. That is expected to be determined by the courts in the next two weeks.
"The Boy Scouts of America's position is, 'We're the BSA, come after us. We feel bad, and we're going to help victims,' " Arsdale said. "If that's true, 'Put your money where your mouth is.' But if they can't find enough money to compensate victims, they need to get it from the local councils."
Robert's troop was part of the Worcester-based Mohegan Council. That council recently merged with Nashua Valley Council and is now Heart of New England Council.
Todd Lamison, Scout executive director and CEO of the new council since November 2018, declined to comment for this story.
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