He says his scoutmaster sexually abused him for the first time when he was 12 years old. For the next three years, the man he had come to trust as a mentor continued the abuse. Finally, when he was 15 and about to become an Eagle Scout, he realized that only leaving the organization would end his suffering.
“That’s when I left Scouting,” David, now 61, said during a news conference in New York on Tuesday. He declined to give his last name, and wore sunglasses and a hat to protect his identity. “Because I realized the only way to obtain the rank of Eagle was to endure more sexual abuse by my scoutmaster.”
But although David escaped his abuser, he said the Boy Scouts of America allowed the man to work with other boys. David said he recently discovered that the Scouts had included the man’s name in a once-secret file of thousands of abusers, suggesting that the organization knew of his crimes.
“It’s bad enough what one individual human being does, that’s between him and God,” David told The Washington Post. “What an organization does to thousands of people, that’s between society and those people.”
David is one of nine people from New York who sued the Boy Scouts on Tuesday, accusing the organization of failing to protect them from sexual abuse over a 30-year period beginning in the 1950s.
The Boy Scouts did not immediately respond to questions about the new lawsuits. Earlier this month, the group apologized to those harmed while Scouts. “We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward,” the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement.
The New York lawsuits were made possible by the state’s new Child Victims Act, which was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) in February. The act changed the state’s statute of limitations on criminal charges or civil lawsuits involving children, and allowed a one-year window for old cases to be filed. More than 400 cases involving defendants such as the Catholic Church, schools and hospitals were filed on the first day of the litigation window last week, the Associated Press reported.
The allegations mark the latest round of legal claims stemming from a once-secret trove of internal documents that detailed more than 7,800 pedophiles in their ranks. The Scouts have come under increased scrutiny in recent years as investigative reporting and a raft of lawsuits have unearthed these previously secret files. Advocates and attorneys say the documents show that the Scouts knew they had a massive pedophile problem and failed to properly alert police and warn children and their parents. One attorney, Tim Kosnoff, recently told The Washington Post that he believes children are still being abused in the Scouts, citing a case as recent as June 2018.
David’s story began in 1970, when a new Boy Scouts troop formed in the Bronx neighborhood where he grew up. He joined and soon grew close to his Scoutmaster, Patrick Mancuso, viewing him as “a mentor and authority figure,” according to court documents. But David said Mancuso used his authority to sexually abuse him until he left the troop. “Being an Eagle Scout was a badge of honor; it might still be today in some circles,” he said at the Tuesday news conference. “But to me, it’s a badge of abuse.”
(Mancuso, who is also named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations.)
David said he reported the abuse to his parents when he left the Scouts in 1972.
But it wasn’t until almost 50 years later that David, now a handyman in Minnesota, told his adult son about the abuse. In response, his son suggested that he move on, saying that there was nothing he could do about an injustice that transpired so many years ago.
“That didn’t sit well with me. I couldn’t let another generation accept that people of power could abuse them with impunity,” David said at the news conference, choking back tears. That’s when he decided to hold the Scouts accountable, he said.
He called a police department in the Bronx but was told that the statute of limitations had long expired and there was nothing they could do. Next, he turned to Google and found the database of suspected sexual abusers — called the ineligible volunteer files — which the Los Angeles Times compiled in an investigative series. There, he found a file from 1977 labeled “Mancuso,” suggesting that the Scouts knew about the man’s abuses, allegedly ousting him from the organization five years after David left.
“When I saw the records, I was like, ‘Maybe someone will believe me, maybe there is a possibility to come forward and tell my story,’ ” David said at the news conference. “I felt honestly more incensed by their concealment than my abuse when I was a child.”
David turned to Jeff Anderson, the attorney who filed the other eight lawsuits on Tuesday. Those cases echo David’s claims, with men claiming that adult leaders sexually abused them and that the Scouts failed to protect children. Anderson said David knew he wanted to come forward but was nervous about the consequences.
But his nerves transformed into anger on Tuesday, when Anderson found Mancuso and called him on speaker phone with David sitting next to him.
“I said, ‘My name is Jeff Anderson, I’m a lawyer, and I’m going to sue you,’ ” he recounted in an interview with The Washington Post. David said his former Scouts leader denied all his accusations.
“I listened to a cold-cold-hearted rapist deny every accusation, deny what’s in the official record, no remorse whatsoever,” David said Tuesday. “When I heard him deny it, it was the last assault I was willing to tolerate, and that’s what brought me here today.”