Wednesday, December 03, 2008

This time it's personal

This will be the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. It involves a topic that is extremely hard for me (or anyone else, for that matter) to discuss, for reasons that will soon become clear.
Regrettably, the lack of proper actions being taken by a certain organization have forced my hand, and therefore I have decided to expose that association’s incredible lack of ownership of some of their members’ horrific actions, as well as the administration of that organization’s complete unwillingness to put any effort whatsoever into rectifying the results of those deeds.

If this post is too much for some people or if they disagree with my decision about my proposed plan of action, I understand. Just skip over it, and we’ll return to regular programming shortly. I’m going to spin coverage of this onto another blog specifically devoted to the issue (details to come in a moment), but I
wanted to begin things here at The Northern Muckraker for two reasons:

1. It’s on topic, in that I cover freedom and fairness issues here and this certainly qualifies, and

2. In order to assure that my quest for resolution of this issue gets the widest possible coverage.

This will be the last I write about the subject on this blog. Interested readers who wish to follow this particular journey should go to The Boy Scouts Don't Care for follow-ups.

Forward, then.

From the age of 11 until I was 17, I was heavily involved in Boy Scouting. I faithfully attended just about every meeting and camping trip, rose to leadership positions at both the troop and district levels, and was selected for membership in the Order of the Arrow. Most relevantly, I attained the rank of Life Scout, one step below the prestigious Eagle, and was one merit badge and one project away from reaching that elite level, which was a cherished goal of mine.

All of that came to an end in late 1986, when I left Scouting permanently. It was by choice, although not much of one. You see, by the time I quit I had been molested by my Scoutmaster for approximately two years, and could no longer take the mental and physical abuse. I was being sexually assaulted on a regular basis at the troop’s meeting place, as well as on overnight camping trips. I was aware that other boys had been targeted for abuse as well, although I believed at the time that mine was the only case that had progressed as far as it did.

I was wrong.

When I left, I was convinced that somehow I was the one at fault, and that if I separated myself from Scouting the problem would hopefully just go away and fix itself. Wishful thinking, to be sure, but I’ve come to learn it’s a solution that is all too commonly reached among survivors of such abuse.

A few short months later, the Scoutmaster was arrested for abusing other and even youngerboys in the troop. Now, to make things even worse for me, I had the guilt of knowing that had I spoken out at the time of my abuse, others may have been spared the ordeal that I was subjected to. I realize now that I pretty much had no way of coping with what was happening to me and no inkling of how to ask someone for the proper help, and that I was fortunate to escape from the situation without even further damage to myself. Still, that sort of thinking is a heavy burden for anyone to bear, much less a seventeen-year-old kid.

During the course of the investigation, I was brought to the local police station and interrogated coldly and harshly by detectives who seemingly gave not a fig about the fact that they were dealing with a terrified and confused young man who happened to be a victim as well as a witness. I’m sure that the way I was treated by those officers has been a major contributor to my mistrust and skepticism of all authority, as well as my refusing to swallow the idea that someone in officialdom always does the right thing, or cares about the well-being of those they are sworn to protect.

I was later informed by the prosecution that I would have to testify at the trial. I understandably was quite reluctant to do so. After all, what teenage boy in his right mind would? I was told that I would be dragged to the witness stand if necessary, which was yet another blow to my trust and respect of authority figures, as no one in charge of the investigation or prosecution ever asked me if any assistance or help was needed or wanted. The people in charge only seemed to care about gaining a conviction, and seemingly had no problem feeding us victims into a metaphorical meat grinder in order to obtain it.

Fortunately for me, no trial was necessary. The Scoutmaster, perhaps convinced by his attorney that forcing several boys onto a witness stand in public in order to graphically describe his crimes against them was a certain losing strategy, decided to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court.

He didn’t get any. The judge, a former Scout himself, sentenced him to fifteen years in prison. I understand that he “maxed out” his time by not completing his assigned prison rehab programs or expressing any remorse or apology for his crimes, behaving like the true sociopath that he is.

Here is one of the contemporaneous news articles describing his plea and sentencing:

All during this time, I never received so much as one phone call or visit offering help from anyone connected with Scouting, from the troop level, where I had been so active, to the district level, where I had made so many friends and forged such close working partnerships, all the way to the national level.

Not one offer.


Lots of publicity has been given since then to meaningless platitudes about reforming policies and procedures to prevent such a thing from happening in the future, but if I was any example, the Scout organization completely wrote off the victims of a nightmare that had already taken place on their watch. I was completely on my own, with predictable results. I passed through 1987 in the midst of an unrecognized and untreated complete depressive state, which resulted in my almost not graduating high school, cost me many failed relationships among family and friends, and affected me financially, as I could not keep a job for any length of time due to such post-traumatic stress symptoms such as insomnia, depression, irritability and the inability to interact well with others.

Fortunately, I was able to singlehandedly correct some of the worst symptoms to the point where I was again a functioning member of society, although at times just barely.

Between lots of therapy and the passage of time, I have managed to come to a sort of uneasy equilibrium, to where I only occasionally get depressed or angry about the crimes that were committed against me. As part of my healing process, I decided to make phone calls to the National Capital Area Council office in Maryland as well as the national headquarters in Texas requesting that I be allowed to complete my Eagle rank, as I had been forced to quit their organization due to the criminal actions of one of its leaders. I was told that once a person turned 18, a hard cutoff had been reached, and that there was no way possible to validate or earn the award after that date. I reluctantly decided that course of action was closed to me, and resigned myself to forever playing the “what if” game.

A few months ago, however, I read a story in the media about a middle-aged man (coincidentally in Baltimore, Maryland) who had just received his Eagle Scout award, despite having not turned in any of his completed paperwork before the magical age of 18. The BSA patted itself on the back publicly about how nice it was that a problem that had happened decades ago had just been fixed nice and neat-like.

Now, wait just one minute. I had been specifically told that such a thing wasn’t possible.

I called the national office once again and spoke to a person named Bill Steele, who apparently is the head of the National Eagle Scout Association. He informed me that the man’s attaining of Eagle Scout some three decades after his 18th birthday was a “special situation”, due to “unique circumstances”. I argued that those descriptions perfectly fit my case perfectly as well. Steele then snippily told me that there were thousands of Scouts in World War II who were drafted by the government to fight, and who were subsequently denied the chance to attain Eagle Scout. I responded that the Boy Scouts weren’t responsible for that conflict, but they were responsible for a sexual predator molesting me, and for their subsequent inaction and lack of any assistance for his victims. Mr. Steele declined to talk to me further and abruptly ended the conversation.

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Here was a national organization that is always spouting off about their commitment to member safety, yet they don’t lift so much as a finger to help those who had already been victims of their prior negligence and inaction.

To that end, I wrote the following letter to Bob Mazzuca, the current chief executive of the organization:

Bob Mazzuca, Chief Executive
Boy Scouts of America
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079

November 3, 2008

Mr. Mazzuca:

My name is Douglas Hester. I am a 39-year-old man and former Life Scout who was one merit badge and one project away from attaining Eagle Scout in 1987. I was very involved with the Scouts at the time, holding several Patuxent District-level volunteer positions, and was an active member of the Order of the Arrow. I’m sure all of this can be verified by checking with National Capital Area Council records.

I was unable to finish my very successful career with the Boy Scouts, as I was forced to quit because my Scoutmaster was molesting me, along with several other boys in my troop, although I had no knowledge of the others at the time. He was subsequently arrested, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. (Please see the attached newspaper article for proof.)

This incident had a devastating impact on me, resulting in my almost not graduating high school, causing very strained relationships with my family and plunging me into a deep depression of several years’ duration. I am still not fully recovered, and have to deal on a daily basis with being a survivor of sexual abuse, with all of the mental baggage that entails. Trust me when I tell you that it’s quite a bit.

After the Scoutmaster was arrested, neither the National Capital Area Council nor the national Boy Scout office made any attempt whatsoever to provide counseling or legal help (or anything else, for that matter) to the victims in the case. We were basically ignored and forgotten about, and everyone seemed to hope that we would just go away, so we pretty much did.

I recently read in the media about the middle-aged man who was allowed to attain his Eagle rank after some decades, because he had neglected to submit the required paperwork. I subsequently contacted the National Capital Area Council office, who referred me to your national office, which put me in touch with Bill Steele of NESA. Mr. Steele was very unhelpful and insensitive to the simple request that my case be considered as well. His main reason for denying me any assistance was (paraphrased) “Well, Boy Scouts who got drafted in World War II didn’t get to complete their Eagle requirements”.

That’s very true, I admit. There’s one important difference, though – The Boy Scouts organization had nothing to do with the world war. It was responsible, however, for allowing a sexual predator to victimize myself and other boys on multiple occasions over a long period of time. Therefore, I submit that the organization owes something to people who didn’t finish their requirements due to crimes committed by a member of their organization.

To that end, I formally request that I be allowed to finish my requirements and attain the rank of Eagle Scout, as partial recompense for the decades of suffering that I have been through because of this incident. If I am refused, I reserve the right to pursue any and all means to make my request public, including but not limited to: contacting the national and local media, writing about my situation on my personal blog, demonstrating in front of your headquarters building and considering legal action against your organization requesting monetary damages for the harm done to me by one of your Scoutmasters.

I humbly await your reply.


(signed) Douglas Hester

I was not given the courtesy of a response, despite repeated follow-up telephone messages left with Mr. Mazzuca’s office staff, as well as with the public relations department.

(By the way, contacting Mr. Mazzuca was something of an ordeal. It seems that they must be quite used to hiding from former victims such as me, because their contact addresses and phone numbers are nowhere to be found on their official website. Go look for yourself. I challenge anyone to browse through it and come up with the information, including the organizational structure that identifies Mr. Mazzuca as the person in charge.)

Oh, and they can’t use the excuse that my letter was somehow lost in transit. I sent it by certified mail:

The Future

Because I have been treated so rudely and dismissively by the Boy Scout organization yet again, I have decided to take further action. I am now planning to demonstrate in person in front of their headquarters in Irving, Texas on Tuesday, December 9, 2008. I have already contacted the national media as well as the local news outlets in the Dallas area, and have outlined exactly what my grievances are against Mr. Mazzuca and the rest of the Boy Scout organization. It is my hope that my fight for recognition and redress will be covered by some of them.

Why am I going public with this? Three main reasons:

1. I no longer feel overwhelming shame or personal embarrassment about disclosing the circumstances of what has happened to me, as I have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide;

2. The BSA’s heartless lack of responsibility and total absence of scruples has angered me, and

3. The incredibly brave telling of their own sexual abuse histories by such people as wide receiver Laveranues Coles of the New York Jets has inspired me to do what I can to help fight further such acts and their cover-ups, as well as seek redress for victims like myself who are already permanently scarred.

To that end, I would consider it a personal favor if the regular readers here would support my efforts by calling Mr. Mazzuca at 972-580-2000 and expressing disappointment with the way that victims of sexual abuse by leaders in his organization have been treated both in the past and quite recently, and urging him to make even a token attempt at offering these permanently damaged people a way to regain at least a small part of what was stolen from them, in an effort to make their lives a little easier and more complete.

Additionally, I would very much appreciate it if people would publicize my quest through word of mouth, email, blog posts or any other means available to them. Furthermore, if anyone has direct knowledge of any other victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the Boy Scouts, please direct them to me, and reassure them that I will treat their personal information with the utmost confidentiality.

Once again, interested people can also follow my efforts to reach a resolution to this issue at The Boy Scouts Don't Care.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Bike Bubba said...

My next door neighbors were molested (I don't know details) by a teacher playing informal scoutmaster. Sadly, their dad didn't get him prosecuted, but more or less said "get out of town and never teach again."

Not the guy who molested you, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had molested again. This kind of thing makes me think that Singapore has the right idea with caning. Let the victims give their forty minus one apiece, and then comes the trained guy.

I'll see what I can do.