A few years into scouting, my longstanding scout leader was inappropriate with me on a camping trip. It was a premeditated situation that he’d set up, culminating in him getting incredibly close to me, whispering to me, and touching me in a sexual way whilst everyone else was asleep in sleeping bags around us. It was incredibly frightening and confusing. I struggle to find words that can convey what happened, and I feel unable to justify the impact with words either. This is part of the difficulty of speaking up.
I wanted to report what happened, however there was no one to tell. There was no process in place to raise any level of concerns, plus it’s a very difficult thing to talk about – emotionally and practically. I did manage to report it internally to an inexperienced leader, who I now believe lacked sufficient (if any) safeguarding training. Unfortunately, and quite traumatically, I was just made to ‘talk-it-out’ with the offending scout leader and settle the issue off the record. My experience was denied and no further action was taken.
I have since reported my experience to the police as an adult, in the knowledge that he was still an active scout leader. One other former member of our unit has also come forward about sexual assaults by the same man. To date, no current or former members, or parents, have been contacted by the Scouts Association about any concerns regarding him, and I have not yet been told of any understandable, specific reasons as to why not. They choose to keep their responses broad, non-specific, evasive and repeated, which shuts down any chance of constructive, directional dialogue. Communication with them feels like a battle, rather than working together, making an already difficult situation unnecessarily prolonged and even more distressing.
No attempts have been made by the Scouts Association to reach out to current members whatsoever, no matter how vague and broad they could choose to be, whether to gather information or offer support, even if they leave him unnamed, etc. I am unsure how they can be sure that no one else has been affected by him more recently or why they don’t care about this. I would like it to be widely known that from my experience, Scouts Safeguarding’s approach appears to be centered on the quiet removal of any adults involved (who likely lacked appropriate training in the first place), and regarding this as individual failings of those dismissed, rather than a wider issue. There have been no attempts at reaching out to scouts who may be impacted, and no attempts at working constructively and openly with those coming forwards. Its jarring, unfair and surely only serves to protect the reputations of the leader involved and of the association.
Silence regarding concerns of abuse in the Scouts does not imply that it isn’t happening. From my two experiences of reporting, there has been a consistent lack of transparency; parents and scouts aren’t alerted when concerns are raised; there aren’t clear routes to raise or escalate concerns; there is disagreeable action, if not inaction, once escalated; and there is a lack of understanding of those affected’s experiences of/while reporting such incidents and how to communicate with those coming forward in a constructive way.
Good luck to this campaign. I hope it achieves what it has set out to – I am wholeheartedly in agreement with its purpose and all of the outcomes outlined.