A church that has lost its voice for justice
is a church that has lost its relevance in the world.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
To Whom It May Concern,
Ten, eleven, twelve years old, I was a member of Troop !! in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York (previous to that, I was Cub Scout at same location).
During that time, an older (by at least five years), experienced Scout leader named G molested me and was otherwise sexually inappropriate towards myself and several younger peers.
This abuse manifested itself in several ways – grooming [see here and here: ‘Parents are so naive—they’re worried about strangers and should be worried about their brother–in–law. They just don’t realize how devious we can be.’] and shaming being the two bookend examples.
G worked box office at the now defunct Elmwood movie theater in Elmhurst, and would let us in to see R-rated films we otherwise wouldn’t be allowed in to see*[see below]. He also let several of my younger peers (and their accompanied friends) in for free.
G had various pornographic magazines (not Playboy or Penthouse, but the expensive, glossy, graphic ones contained not simulated sex acts but penetration and ejaculations and threesomes and the likes of which I’d never seen before then) he brought to a yearly two-week camping trip at Ten Mile River in Narrowsburg, New York. He came to my tent with them one night (there were an odd number of us that summer and so I volunteered to stay in a tent without a partner) and whilst leafing through them by flashlight, inappropriate comments and questions commenced. He asked if I’d had sex yet, and told me (in so many words) he’d just lost his virginity earlier that year. Eventually, he asked to see my penis, which I showed him, and he critiqued from every angle (‘big’, ‘nice and thick’, ‘bad circumcision’ – the latter of which has stuck with me all my life; body image is important for a kid, though faith and trust is even more so). This went on, as he simultaneously continued asking questions, the level of graphic nature increasing.
I was eleven at the time, though there were previous, more subtle (read: confusing for a child, but clearly, unmistakably insidious to an adult) incidents.
He also brought with him (to summer camp, mind you) pornographic VHS cassettes, which he lent to two kids a few years older than I (one was my patrol leader – said G: ‘At fifteen, he’s hornier than both you and I put together’).
On a few occasions, I instinctively tried ‘outing’ him, once for having aforementioned magazines. His response: sharp, aggressive victim shaming and blaming. In at least that one instance, several other leaders were present, and heard the exchange (as well as several peers, who were either shocked at my mention of it, or ‘shushed’ me), but did nothing. In retrospect, it is clear everyone knew.
As can be seen, I remember everything, and details are not foggy but HD-sharp.
I was an only child. A latchkey kid. Raised by a single mom (herself a survivor of domestic violence). Insecure, lonely, confused from already having experienced abuse – abuse which he knew about (more than just intuitively). I was prime rib.
Over the years, the shame, embarrassment, regret and fury have not diminished, but accrued, even with therapy.
Months ago, whilst visiting my mother, I noticed mail with my name on it had been sent to her address. One was a postcard informing of a Troop 17 reunion of at Flushing Meadow Park on August 16th, 2014. ‘Does this bring back memories?’ was printed on the back in bold letters.
Indeed it did.
I had planned on writing this letter before receiving that (and several other BSA-related) mail. But it was certainly a trigger. Years ago, I received another piece of mail with dozens of alumni names (including both mine and G’s), replete with contact info for each of us. This was alarming, since I did not live at the address this was sent to whilst I was a Scout and wondered how I’d been ‘tracked down’.
I’ve attached two photos of G – one from then (G smack in the middle of the pic) and one more recent one (obtained via quick Google search).
The number of us with unspoken stories is l e g i o n .
*Friday, June 5th of my twelfth year, my friend CM and I tried to see a 7pm show of an R-rated film, only to be told we were underage. Forthwith, G entered the box office, shooed away the other ticket seller and sold us two tickets. Few weeks later, he let a younger Scout friend of mine (and friend of that friend) in for free to see another film. Point here being: my memory’s sharp as a Tungsten needle.
– Letter sent June of 2014 to the Boy Scouts of America, via both email and snail mail. I’ve yet to receive any response.