Nearly 40 years later, a former Boy Scout remains haunted by alleged assault
By Brian Macquarrie
January 01, 2021
|Kevin Hannon in a canoe on the Saco River during the two-week trip in August 1981 in which he alleges he was sexually abused.|
After nearly 40 years, a middle-age man with five children remains haunted by the memory of a Boy Scout camping trip to New Hampshire.
Kevin Hannon had been sleeping during a rainy night in 1981, sheltering in a tent near Adams Pond in Barnstead. He woke suddenly to a hand groping his genitals, he recalled recently. Shocked and confused, he did not say a word as the perpetrator withdrew and walked away.
The 14-year-old recognized the man who had touched him, someone Hannon had trusted, a respected member of the West Roxbury neighborhood where they both lived, and the scoutmaster of his troop.
“I was afraid to tell anybody, afraid to be ridiculed, and afraid of how people would think of me,” Hannon said in an interview at his kitchen table. “When I came home from camp, I felt a little lost. I contemplated hurting myself.”
This autumn, Hannon finally came forward with the allegation, becoming one of more than 95,000 people to file sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America before a Nov. 16 deadline set by US Bankruptcy Court. The 110-year-old organization had asked for bankruptcy protection in February as the rising cascade of allegations posed a potentially crippling blow to its finances.
The bankruptcy proceedings, which have paused previous lawsuits, are expected to cause a dramatic restructuring of the Boy Scouts, which has reported more than $1 billion in assets but is beset by dwindling membership and revenues.
Hannon is among 105 former Boy Scouts represented by Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who filed suit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston during the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the church.
The men he represents allege they were sexually abused as minors ranging from 7 to 18 years old, and that the alleged abuse by Boy Scout leaders or assistants occurred from approximately 1947 to 2002. Some had been sexually abused for years and currently range from about 33 to 89 years old, Garabedian said.
“The sexual abuse of children within the Boy Scouts is just another example of a financially rich and powerful institution caring about its own financial well-being and not about the safety of innocent children,” Garabedian said.
Garabedian added that some late claims could be accepted by the bankruptcy court, and that victims might be able to pursue legal action in state court against local Boy Scout councils, supervisors, or sponsoring organizations.
In a statement, Boy Scouts of America officials said they are “devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who came forward. We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain, and we are committed to working as expeditiously as possible to provide survivors of abuse with equitable compensation.”
The man who allegedly molested Hannon, he said in his claim, was Scoutmaster Eugene Tinory of Troop 7, a junior high teacher and award-winning gardener who led the troop’s weekly meetings at Holy Name Parish School.
Tinory, who died in 2007, was associated with the Boy Scouts for more than 40 years, mostly with Troop 7. He also had been a longtime Westwood middle-school teacher, an Army major who served in the Korean War, and president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, according to his obituary.
Tinory took students on annual trips to the US Military Academy and the United Nations, and was known for his lively song-and-skit presentations at the end of Boy Scout camping trips.
After Tinory’s death, more than a dozen glowing tributes to him appeared on an online obituary site. He was praised by former Scouts and their parents, by students and neighbors, for his vitality, humor, and decades of contributions to the community.
Efforts to reach his relatives were not successful. According to his obituary, Tinory did not have children. He was not charged in the alleged incident.
Kevin Hannon said the alleged abuse has cast a shadow over his life. Hannon left the Boy Scouts shortly after the trip, which included a week in Barnstead and a week canoeing on the Saco River.
“At such a young age, it starts out little. But over the years, it grows into something big,” said Hannon, a maintenance foreman at Boston Sand & Gravel. “I can’t blame everything on this, but is there something there? Yes.”
Hannon said he soon became depressed and turned to the distractions of alcohol, drugs, and sex in his early teenage years.
“I was very sexually active at a young age, and I went looking for it. That definitely was part of all this. I always wanted to prove I was a man,” Hannon said. “I guess when you can’t let it out, when you can’t talk about it, it becomes part of you.
“Low self-esteem, that’s what it did to me,” he added. “I don’t feel normal. I let a lot of people walk all over me. I don’t want to be like that, but I feel powerless to change it.”
Before Hannon’s interview with the Globe, he had not even told his parents about the alleged abuse. Afterward, he informed them in a phone call.
His father, John Hannon, preceded Tinory as scoutmaster at Troop 7 and said he didn’t notice any change in Kevin when he returned from the camping trip.
“I was shocked when he told us. He had never given any indication to either of us that anything like that had happened to him,” John Hannon said of his son’s allegation.
“The phone call was emotional on his side. He said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’ I just said, ‘OK, tell me,’ “ John Hannon said. “I’m not sure I would have said anything to my father if I had had anything like that happen to me.”
Garabedian said former scouting supervisors must be held accountable.
“The sheer number of Boy Scout sexual abuse victims over decades brings into question what the supervisors of sexual abusers knew about the sexual abuse of innocent children, when they knew it, and the broad scope of the coverup,” Garabedian said.
The Boy Scouts has about 2.3 million children in its ranks, including girls since 2019. But that number is decreasing, a decline exacerbated by the pandemic, which has led to widespread school closings and canceled programming.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the bankruptcy together have created a perfect storm,” the Boy Scouts said. “Our fall recruiting season was drastically impaired as a result of the pandemic, with revenue down almost 50 percent compared to last year, which will significantly impact cash flows in 2021.”
The Scouts said they must resolve the bankruptcy process by summer, including funding a trust to compensate victims, if the organization is to continue its mission.
Kevin Hannon said he filed his claim after seeing a national television commercial about how to join the court action.
“I said, ‘You know what? I should do that,’ " Hannon recalled. “I hope this lets people in [Boy Scouts] leadership realize that they have to keep their ears open wider.”
Publicly airing the allegation has brought him relief after decades of corrosive silence, he added.
“To get my message out there, I feel better already,” Hannon said. “Without this, I probably would never have told my parents or anybody, and it probably would have eaten me away.”