Boy Scouts Sued over Alleged Sex Abuse in Conn.

By Dave Collins
The Herald-Tribune
February 23, 2012

Two men in their early 40s sued the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday, claiming scouting officials failed to protect them from a sexually abusive scoutmaster in Connecticut when they were children in the mid-1980s.

The plaintiffs, identified only as John Roe 1 and John Roe 2, filed a negligence lawsuit in state court in New Haven against the national organization and its Connecticut Yankee Council chapter. They say they were sexually abused on several occasions by David "Dirk" Davenport when he was the leader of Troop 490 in Madison.

The men allege scouting officials knew or should have known that before Davenport came to Connecticut in 1983, he had been accused of molesting boys in Montana, Nebraska and Minnesota in the 1970s and early 1980s, sometimes when he was a scoutmaster in those states.

The lawsuit also claims the Boy Scouts officials kept confidential "perversion files" dating back to the 1920s that contained information on alleged pedophiles. The plaintiffs allege Boy Scouts officials knew scouting programs were being targeted by pedophiles, but they took no steps to protect boys or warn local troops, scouts or their families about the dangers.

The plaintiffs suffered emotional and psychological damage including long-term clinical depression, anxiety, loss of faith and trust and serious problems with addiction, the lawsuit says.

"Today's case highlights the long-lasting nature of the effects of child sexual abuse by a trusted adult," said Frank Bartlett, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs. "The abuser tore apart the young lives of these boys. Now they are left to pick up the pieces decades later."

Davenport, 74, didn't return a phone message left Tuesday at the SunCoast Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church in Venice, Fla., where he is an associate pastor. His home phone number is unlisted.

Guilford police arrested Davenport on sexual assault and other charges involving nine boys in 1985. He pleaded guilty to two charges and served more than two years in prison, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., reported in a story involving Davenport. Connecticut prison officials declined Tuesday to immediately provide records to The Associated Press.

Scouting officials declined to comment on the lawsuit's allegations, but said Davenport was immediately removed from the Connecticut scoutmaster job after the abuse was discovered by Boy Scout leaders, who informed police.

The Boy Scouts of America, based in Irving, Texas, released a statement Tuesday saying the organization has taken many actions to protect children over the past 25 years since the events involving Davenport, including enacting policies that prevent one-on-one contact between youths and adults.

"The abuse of anyone, and especially children, is abhorrent and intolerable," the Boy Scouts' statement said. "The Boy Scouts of America continues to evolve our multi-layered youth protection efforts."

Louis Salute, scout executive of the Connecticut Yankee Council local chapter, said background checks are performed on every scout leader. He said he wasn't familiar with the allegations involving Davenport because no one currently in his office was around back then, so he couldn't comment on the lawsuit.

"We've become very proactive in youth protection," Salute said.

The Boy Scouts have dealt with many child sex abuse scandals across the country over the years.

In October, a Los Angeles Times and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. investigation found that one scout leader molested at least 15 children over nearly two decades beginning in the 1970s. In Connecticut in 2009, former Boy Scout leader James W. Harris III of Tolland was convicted of raping three children and sentenced to 15 years in prison. One of the victims was a boy he repeatedly assaulted at a scout camp in Bolton.

"Childhood sexual abuse is a kind of vandalism to the soul," said Kelly Clark, another lawyer for the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit. "Most survivors take decades before they are able to come to grips with it. These men have had a long road of silent shame, and they have a long way to go to find healing and closure."








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