My family were heavily involved in Scouting at a local level wherever we lived (Dad was in the army so we moved every few years). I always felt safe in Scouting environments, particularly because Mum and Dad would know everyone around and I of course trusted everyone in uniform and respected their position (military upbringing).
In 1977 we were at a big Scouting gathering at a permanent national Scouting camp site and activity centre of some significance (can’t name it due my respect for the rules of this site) – I would have been a Cub of about 8. There was a man there who was some sort of facilities manager on site (not that I’d have known that sort of job title back then). My parents were both leaders with our cub/scout troop and I was there partly as a member of the troop and partly as the son of leaders – so a ‘lucky’ and likely favoured position within the troop. I don’t know how this guy became particularly friendly with my parents but I seem to recall there was a decent amount of friendly interaction between them. They obviously trusted him and it seems likely they felt we were all in a safe space. At some stage the combination of my status and his apparent closeness to my parents led to me being allowed to visit him in his office, which I seem to recall was on the edge of an area of shops, workshops and other buildings around a square. Probably central to the facility but it’s a long time ago and I was young. Others more familiar with the place may have more idea. I would kind of like to have some of the blanks filled in to help with some closure but not sure this will actually be possible. My mind is restless where the details are missing, if that makes any sense.
I seem to recall the first visit or two were uneventful in the context of the abuse. He seemed happy for me to hang around for a bit, get some sweets from a stash he kept in his desk drawer or fizzy pop from his fridge. I remember him giving me one present early on, which was a really cool badge/pennant for my camp blanket that he’d had (amongst loads more) on his wall. I was very proud of that! I don’t know how many times in total I visited him but on one of these occasions we went to a store room, where he held me (sort of cuddling me in a reassuring, friendly way to start with). Then he put his hand in my pants and felt my penis, all the while talking to me in a calming voice about how good I was and this would be our little secret and he shouldn’t really be doing it and he might get into trouble if people knew and I didn’t want to get him into trouble did I and I might actually get myself into trouble as well?
I know it’s not unusual for abuse victims to struggle to understand their own actions but I went back a number of other occasions (again – don’t know how many). I can remember asking my parents if I could go to see him because I think I enjoyed an important adult showing interest in an 8 year old me. I don’t know if this was more before the abuse started or if that continued but I did return, sometimes just to his office to ‘bother him’ as he called it, get gifts of sweets and fill some spare time. Only sometimes would he ‘need’ to check out or fetch something from the store-room.
After that first time when he touched me, on subsequent occasions he got me to touch him as well. He said it would be interesting for me to know what a grown up willy would feel like compared with my own. It seems odd now, though of course I didn’t know any better back then but he never seemed particularly aroused. It just felt like he had a bigger part than me, like his hands or body or head were bigger. Funny how that child-like way of thinking works.
I remember feeling as if the abuse wasn’t really doing any harm and while I felt uncomfortable about it, he admitted to me he shouldn’t really be doing it and he did have a nice selection of sweets and pop for me to pick from when I visited.
I didn’t tell anyone about it. I think I was worried I would get into trouble and that by hiding it from my parents I was essentially lying to them and they would be cross with me. Then as I got older it felt like I’d be struggling to get people to believe me because I didn’t say anything at the time and as I went back ‘for more’, maybe I was to blame. My parents have always been loving, supportive and I now know there’s no way they’d have let this man get away with what he’d done if they could possibly help it. As the years have gone by I’ve wondered if I should have at least told them, but as I’ve got older I’ve thought about how much it would hurt them to know they’d put me in harm’s way.
I do feel a lot of guilt that by keeping quiet I probably allowed this man to abuse others. I have made some half-hearted attempts at searching for any news stories that might have indicated at some point he’d been found out but as I don’t know his name or likely age it’s unlikely I’d be able to narrow it down. I think this is to try to get some closure – some idea that someone braver than me spoke out and got the guy convicted. I don’t know what else I need to do – the experience comes to mind at all sorts of odd times, sometimes often sometimes now, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about it.
I can’t comment on the willingness or ability of the Scouting movement to properly safe-guard children in it’s care. I’m one man with one experience during a fortnight’s camping event. I do though see the other stories on here and realise I wasn’t alone – unfortunately lots of organisations are being found wanting in this area – churches/education/Scouting – anywhere lots of young people are left to the care of people society seem to inherently trust.
Please – anyone who has suffered – reach out. By telling 2 or 3 people over my life in whom I have absolute trust, I have managed to at least make some sense of what happened. I know many other people have been more traumatised by their experiences – physically and mentally. I’m lucky mine was non-invasive abuse and I’ve coped (I think) well over the years.
I fully support the aims and ethos of this organisation and thank you for the platform to post about my experience to help me in my slow journey towards, one day I hope, fuller closure.