I was groomed from age 12 and abused from age 13 by my scout leader, who was 20 years my senior. This was in 1993. He manipulated me into a highly intimate ‘friendship’, saying I was the only one who could understand and help him with his social and sexual issues. As a lonely and ‘gifted’ child I was an easy target, and I believed him.
He was very highly respected in the local community and I didn’t feel able to tell anyone for fear of the reprecussions, for both of us. The abuse often happened during scouting activities, with him controlling/rewarding me with increased scouting responsibilities and perks beyond my years.
It also frequently happened in private in his house, and gradually included dedicated camping trips away, for which I always owed him money. He got me a good part-time job with his company, also making him my boss and the source of my income – another level of control.
He sexually abused me on a weekly basis for more than five years. I lied to my family and my friends about it the entire time. He was incredibly jealous and manipulative, repeatedly sabotaging any attempts I made to have normal teenage relationships, often by threatening to kill himself if I slept with anyone else. He even tried it, and I saved his life more than once.
At one point he was arrested for possession of child pornography, but manipulated me into lying to defend him, and the police who interviewed me clearly had no safeguarding knowledge or training whatsoever. He got away with some small service in the community, who all still worshipped him. The Scouting Association were well aware of this issue, but he was simply ‘reprimanded’ for this ‘minor’ conviction, without them taking any further action.
By this time, I was also helping to run the local scout group. I learnt that I was not the only one he abused. There were others before me, and afterwards. I know some of their names.
I eventually escaped to university far away, so the frequency of the abuse reduced signficantly, although the intensity of his controlling behaivour took years to subside. I was left with deep psychological issues with trust and intimacy, which blighted many of my relationships and left me angry, lonely and miserable for many years.
I eventually told someone my story at the age of 26, and the disclosure triggered a significant bout of ill mental health. I struggled with this, but gradually confided in a few more close friends, before eventually managing to go to the police at 33 years old. A thorough investigation followed, which required me to also disclose to my parents, siblings, and several ex-girlfriends – a traumatic experience in itself.
My abuser was arrested, and his assets seized. The investigation dragged on for about a year, during which we contacted some of his other victims, but none were mentally healthy enough to come forward. I repeatedly told the police he was a suicide risk, with specific details on his preferred method. A few weeks before he would have been charged by the CPS, he killed himself, in exactly the manner I always said he would, therefore denying me any closure via justice. It took months of requests and effort to even get the CPS to tell me what they would have charged him with, and what the likely sentence would have been.
As advised, I applied for and was granted an ‘award’ (awful terminology) by the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority, however, the award was the minimum possible because it was apparently clear from my good job and relatively functional life that “the abuse had not caused me signficant damage”. It was also made clear to me that if there was any way I could reclaim those funds via a civil case then I should do so, such that they could be used for ‘less fortunate’ innocent victims. I therefore approached some solicitors, and instigated a civil case.
The Scouting Association claimed that my abusers actions had been nothing to do with their organisation, and argued that he alone was the responsible party. After much discussion and deliberation, my lawyers advised me that the case would be much more likely to succeed if it were not against the Scouting Association, but instead against my abuser’s estate. I grudgingly followed their advice, and the Scouting Association were therefore let off with no consequences whatsoever for allowing this to happen.
The civil case was an entirely unpleasant affair that lasted almost five years, as my dead abuser’s family fought to retain his estate for themselves. It was eventually settled in my favour, but by the time all the lawyer fees, costs, insurances, etc. has been paid, the amount of damages I received was actually less than the CICA had awarded me – and they then insisted I had to pay that award back anyway, so I ended up out of pocket for trying to do the right thing. Just on my side of the case, the lawyers’ turnover was over three times larger than the damages i received .
In the end I not only sufferred half a decade of abuse, but I was catastrophically let down by the Scouting Association, by the police, by the criminal justice system, and by the civil legal system, none of which are remotely fit for purpose in my opinion.
However, without any credit to any of them, I’m now reasonably healthy and happy. I spent several years in some very challenging therapy, and have worked through the issues he left me. Although it didn’t go the way it should have done, I am proud to have made the hard decisions, stuck to my principles, and still be standing at the end of it all.
If my story can help others, then I’m very happy to share it. I would perhaps even do so without anonymity, if that would be somehow useful. I regularly donate to NAPAC, and would volunteer to work with them, but I live abroad these days which makes it difficult.
I sincerely hope that Yours In Scouting can have a positive effect on the Scouting Association, and their hopelessly inadequate safeguarding policies, so that more children don’t have to suffer. If there is more I can do to help the cause, then please let me know.