CA--Victims blast Scouts over “immoral” legal tactics
For immediate release, December 15, 2016
The facts about this case are easily available from court filings, news coverage and the attorneys involved. As advocates for children, and victims, we’re here today to talk about morality - specifically, the immoral, mean-spirited and possibly illegal defenses that Boy Scout officials are using to try to evade responsibility and intimidate victims.
Last year, a 17 year old sued Boy Scout officials for the repeated abuse he says he suffered six years earlier by assistant scoutmaster Dustin Hedrick. Now, in a disgusting and chilling legal maneuver, those Scout officials are essentially blaming the then-13 year old for his sexual victimization by a now-imprisoned predator.
In court, just like in sports, one can fight clean or fight dirty. The Scouts are fighting dirty. They should apologize, reverse course and discipline or demote the official or officials who approved this callous and cunning legal strategy.
In a legal filing, trying to get this entire case tossed out of court, Scout officials call Hedrick’s crimes against a 13 year old “a consensual, clandestine relationship” and that “part of” the victim “enjoyed the experience” because he had “confessed his sexuality” as gay.
Let’s be clear on a few things.
--When an adult abuses a child, it’s not a “relationship.” It’s a crime. That’s why Hedrick was charged and convicted.
--When child sex crimes happen, whether force is involved or not is irrelevant. It’s the betrayal that causes the horrific harm, not whether it was done under the guise of “love” or at the end of a gun barrel.
--Whether any part of any victim ever “enjoyed” anything about abuse is irrelevant. To claim this is vicious. (A lonely elderly couple may “enjoy” the attention lavished on them by a con artist. That’s irrelevant when he’s charged with embezzling from them.)
--When someone of any age says anything about their supposed or actual sexual orientation, it’s no “confession.” A confession means someone has “sinned” or broken laws.
All of this is designed to demoralize and depress and deter this victim and other victims into backing off. It’s victim-blaming of the worst order.
The Scouts aren’t dumb. They know thousands of children have been sexually assaulted by hundreds of Scout employees and volunteers. They also know that these kinds of mean-spirited legal maneuvers will scare and depress more of these thousands into staying silent. In the short term, that protects the Scout officials. But it also endangers kids and hurts already-wounded victims. It’s a shameful strategy.
Let us remind you that this predator is now convicted. Maybe there’s a scintilla of justification for these hardball tactics in a civil case where the abuser hasn’t been criminally convicted. But that’s not the case here.
Let us remind you that this brave victim is now 19 years old. Maybe there’s a scintilla of justification for these hardball tactics in a civil case where the accuser is 40 or 50 or 60 and one might be able to claim “Well, she’s been an adult for decades and should have recovered and should be strong enough to endure being blamed for what happened to her as a child.”
But this is a teenager. He was repeatedly and recently sexually violated. He did his civic duty and cooperated with law enforcement. He helped get a predator exposed and convicted. Now, he’s doing his moral duty, by exposing and deterring those who ignore or conceal child sex crimes. He deserves gratitude, not attacks.
We believe the Scouts’ legal filing may violate a recent California law that forbids defendants in child sex cases from claiming consent by the alleged victim. (Civil Code Section 1708.5.5.)
Scout officials are using several other hair-splitting legalisms in defending themselves. For example, they claim that they never “supervised leaders or adult volunteers” in Doe’s troop. They’re also seeking to have Doe’s case tossed out entirely through a “motion for summary judgment.”
In our view, these are more typical but still inappropriate defenses. Alleged child sex abuse victims should be able to have “their day in court” and not be denied justice because of hard-ball legal maneuvers.
Finally, we praise this brave John Doe for taking steps to protect kids and expose wrongdoers. It’s very rare that someone so young shows such wisdom and courage to quickly report, expose and prosecute those who commit and sue those who conceal these devastating crimes.”
If you saw, suspected or suffered crimes or cover ups in Scouting, by Hedrick or others, we beg you to call police. Get help from independent sources, like therapists, police, prosecutors, attorneys or support groups like ours. Do NOT suffer in silence, shame and self-blame. Do NOT stay mired in helplessness. Take a step to help yourself and others.
For more info:
Joseph George Jr (916 641 7300, [email protected]), Joseph C. George PhD of Sacramento (916 802 7949) and Timothy Hale of Santa Barbara (805 963 2345) represent the alleged victim. The Scouts are represented by John Gherini of San Francisco (415 781 7900) and Paul Ryan Ortuno of Irvine (949 852 8200), both of the Sedgwick firm.