My abuser died by suicide after his arrest for allegations of sexual assault that had been reported by another victim. I had been contacted by the police as a part of the investigation, and recounted my own allegations. Days later, his body was discovered in the scout hut where he had abused me.
The Scout Association’s inaction has made what was already a traumatic situation even more stressful and deeply depressing.
Rather than informing members that prior to his passing, a leader of 20 years had been suspended pending a sexual assault investigation, the scouts posted and published condolence messages celebrating his contribution to the community and encouraged members to attended his funeral in full scouts uniform.
Surely, the scouts would have a responsibility to inform parents that their child might have been at risk for abuse? Knowing I hadn’t been the only person he had abused was hugely impactful. Wouldn’t other potential victims have a right to know the circumstances so that they could begin healing from the shame, guilt and isolation?
I contacted the scouts safeguarding office and spent months trying to communicate with them about what I felt was a major safeguarding issue. The scouts sent me vague responses that contained little to no information and eventual silence.
Disclosing the abuse within scouting had been extremely difficult – I had done so as a teenager and later as an adult. I discovered that neither allegation had been recorded or reported to scouts HQ.
Eventually, I spoke with the highest level of safeguarding at scouts who told me that there had been no gossip about my abuser, that there were no other concerns raised about this leader being ‘slightly dodgy’, and that no other victims had come forward. The scouts did not feel that there was a need to inform members of our abuser’s arrest and suspension or the failings to report our allegations, they said that transparency was an interesting point, but not one they would consider.
Paedophiles do not have clear tell-tale signs that spark gossip, and groomers utilise their positions and reputations to abuse children. Why would victims come forward if they were not informed of the circumstances? Regardless, my experience is that the scouts do not provide a supportive environment for victims of sexual violence.
Transparency when processes fail ensures that those who do not follow protocol are held accountable – that is how we protect children. Withholding information surrounding sexual assault cases only serves to protect the reputation of The Scout Association. How can a child-centred organisation continue to function when even the highest positions of scouting place reputational damage above child and victim welfare?
The Scout Association can not continue stonewalling victims and ignoring their significant systemic failings, enough is enough.