Monday, December 10, 2007

Sea Scout Leader Arrested For Sexually Abusing Boys In His Troop

A long-time sea scout master, Eugene Evans, who sued the city of Berkeley, California over their decision to revoke a rent-free berth for the troop's boat because of the Scouts discriminatory policies banning gays and atheists has been arrested for sexually abusing boys in his troop.

Some would say that if he is guilty then he must be one of the people who he supported banning, but that might not be true. He might be someone who enjoys pushing his power as a scout leader to unethical limits. This could be all about ego. If he is straight he might look at his behavior in a different way than he would look at the behavior of mutually consenting adults of the same gender. He of course would be the better person. He might rationalize his actions as trying to detect the gay Sea Scouts so he knows who shouldn't be a Boy Scout. His sexual abuse could be rationalized as detective work.

Mr. Evans’s lawyer, Philip Schnayerson, said Thursday that “hundreds” of former scouts and friends had called to voice support. “There have been no complaints of improper or criminal behavior in any of the communities he has lived in,” Mr. Schnayerson said of his client.

This is nothing short of an attempt at character assassination against those who disclosed abuse. Since rape and sexual abuse have low rates of reporting, having no prior complaints is meaningless. Also because of the Boy Scout's anti-gay policy, victims of abuse by other boys or men may feel that disclosing their abuse will get them labeled as gay which will get them ejected from the Boy Scouts.

That means the Boy Scouts anti-gay policy contributes to the silence of victims of abuse committed by boys or men against boys which in turn contributes to the abuse of new victims.

The hundreds of people who called to voice support are also meaningless when it comes to guilt or innocence since sexual abuse by those in leadership positions depends on a perception of trustworthiness. Most of those who abuse work subtly and don't abuse the majority of those they work with.

Could we ever imagine a similar statement by someone accused of drunk driving? Hundreds of people rode with this driver and he was never drunk in their presence. We understand that the defendant isn't being judged on the law of averages or on general perception of someone's driving habits, but on specific actions. Except in sentencing, it doesn't matter if someone drives sober most of the time. What matters is whether they drove drunk one time as alleged.

All cases, including sexual abuse cases, must be decided on evidence not image. And that evidence must include the testimony of this man's alleged victims. Anyone who refuses to pay attention to testimony is directly helping those who commit sex crimes. This man's lawyer will have plenty of opportunities to review all of the testimony critically and that is important. Testimony should only be dismissed for a legitimate cause. "He said, he said" is not a genuine cause. Neither is the alleged victim's sexual orientation.

This case also highlights what I see as a deep flaw in the Boy Scouts anti-gay position. Being gay or atheist doesn't make someone untrustworthy and being straight or Christian doesn't make someone trustworthy. Their current policy overlooks most of those who pose a serious risk to the public and to those enrolled in scouting programs until these people are caught doing something so horrific or embarrassing that the Scouts must toss that person out to maintain the Boy Scout's public image.

Ethics and conduct are what matter independent of what label gets placed on a person. The Boy Scouts forget this at great risk to those entrusted to the care of scout leaders.

Hat tip: Feministe

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:42 AM   1 comments links to this post


At December 15, 2007 2:21 PM, Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

Marcella: I love your analogy of the drunk driver. Very good point!

I'm always so happy to see you participate in the BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. Thanks!


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