Were you a Boy Scout? I was, back in the 1950s. I served as an Explorer Scoutmaster in Illinois in the 1970s.
Now, if I had a son or daughter at an age to be a Scout, I probably would not let him near a Scout troop, a Scout adult leader or a Scout camp.
Over the past decade, an investigator hired by the Scouting organization identified 12,254 victims of sexual abuse by 7,819 scout leaders and adults from 1946 to 2017.
That, say critics of the Boy Scouts of America, is just the tip of a massive iceberg of corruption within the organization.
“We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children,” says a statement from BSA. “We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement.”
That may be true now, but it was not so in the 1970s in Alton, IL, when I served as a volunteer Explorer leader for the Scouts. Explorers were open to both teenage boys and girls and during a pickup basketball game, a 16-year-old female high school student began rubbing herself sexually against one of the boys.
I made a note to talk to her about it afterward, and she sat in my car afterwards outside the gym and I asked her if she knew what she was doing and how inappropriate it was.
Instead of answering, she moved over close to me in the car seat, threw her arms around my neck and tried to kiss me passionately while dropping her hand to my lap and start massaging my groin.
I pushed her away and asked her what she thought she was doing.
“I’m doing what are you guys want,” she said with a smile. “If you want it, then let’s do it.”
She tried to kiss me again. I pushed her away again.
“You know you want me,” she said. “The guy who had your job before you did. He liked me doing him. Let’s screw. You will enjoy it.”
I told her to leave the car and go home with her friend. When I asked another Explorer leader about her, he shrugged and said: “It happens. She’s not the only one and I know several who have enjoyed her charms. She’s a good-looking, sweet young thing. Why not enjoy what she offers. It’s one of the perks of the job.”
I was single at that time of my life and I had an active social life with adult women. At the time the encounter with a high school girl occurred, I was in a consensual, intimate relationship between adults. I didn’t have any need or desire to mess with kids.
When I reported what happened to the local Scouting Office, I was told it “would be investigated.” If any investigation was ever launched, I was not contracted. The girl never returned to a Post meeting. When I inquired about the outcome of the “investigation,” I was told “other things were more important.”
“Don’t push this,” I was told. “If you do, the girl will probably claim you and she had sex and you would be the one in trouble.”
I quit my volunteer job with Scouting and never had anything to do with them again.
Last year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the largest participant in the Boy Scouts program and representing about 20 percent of all Scout members, cut ties with the Boys Scouts. A group of lawyers claims they have uncovered hundreds of previously unreported cases of sexual abuse.
Scout membership has dropped by more than 26 percent in the past decade.
In a box somewhere in storage, I have a sash with merit badges I earned during my time as a Boy Scout. If I ever find it, I will burn it.