nbcnews One Louisiana man, who kept his abuse ordeal secret for 60 years, reached out to a lawyer Tuesday to tell his story.
By Corky Siemaszko
As word came that the Boy Scouts of America had filed for bankruptcy protection, one alleged abuse survivor was moved to come forward with a story of being abused and threatened that he says he’d been living with for six decades.
The man told NBC News he was a 14-year-old Boy Scout in Louisiana working on an astronomy merit badge when a scoutmaster invited him to go by the lake to look at the stars.
“I was very naïve,” he said. “But when he grabbed my groin, I immediately reacted.”
So did the scoutmaster.
“He threatened me with a machete,” the 73-year-old said, asking not to be identified. “Even now, when I think about it, I get this gut-wrenching feeling. Because of his threats, I never told anybody.”
But now that the Boy Scouts are seeking Chapter 11 protection, the alleged abuse survivor said he’s ready to join the more than 3,000 men who are suing the nonprofit for allowing pedophiles inside the organization to prey on the boys.
“What happened to me was brief but traumatic,” he said. “It’s one reason why I carry a gun with me everywhere I go.”
That survivor, a prominent Louisiana resident who still supports the Boy Scouts, has plenty of company, the lawyers who have sued the organization said.
Dozens of other alleged victims have come forward to join the lawsuits while they still can, their representatives said Tuesday.
“It is crucial for all those who were victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward now, so that their claims can be handled in bankruptcy court,” said Stewart Eisenberg, one of the Abusedinscouting.com lawyers who represent thousands of alleged victims. “We think that all victims of Boy Scout-related sex abuse should receive a meaningful measure of justice.”
Michael Mertz, a Chicago-based lawyer who has represented Boy Scouts victims, said that by declaring bankruptcy, the organization is trying to limit the damages.
“This is an effort by the national organization to avoid paying full and fair compensation to victims of abuse,” Mertz said. “Those who’ve been hurt by the Boy Scouts should consider acting now while they still can.”
Attorney Michael Barasch, who represents hundreds of sex abuse survivors, agreed.
“For far too many years, the Boy Scouts of America turned a blind eye to credible allegations of sexual abuse,” Barasch said. “Now, instead of recognizing its responsibility to fully compensate survivors, the organization has decided to hide behind the Bankruptcy Code. In my experience representing individuals with sexual abuse claims, it has become clear that the enforced silence — the refusal of adults who should have known better to acknowledge serious trauma and make amends — only exacerbates their suffering.“