Survivor Speak Out: Statement by Richard Hayes Phillips

The below statement was given by Richard Hayes Phillips during the Survivor Speak Out sponsored by SNAP, The Army of Survivors, and Together 4 Girls on April 8 World Day for Prevention. We are grateful to Richard for sharing his story with us and hope it inspires other survivors to come forward and find their own path towards healing, prevention, and justice.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts. I was taken by brute force, twice, by gangs of fellow Boy Scouts, two the first time, five the second time.

I have mixed feelings about saying this. I loved the Boy Scouts until I didn’t. It was wonderful until it wasn’t. I went to the National Jamboree at Valley Forge when I was twelve, and became a Life Scout within two years. I was patrol leader, and troop scribe (I do have beautiful handwriting), and I was aiming for the Eagle Scout award, the highest honor a boy could achieve.

One day at Camp Boyhaven, when I was thirteen, I walked in on a strip poker game in one of our tents. It was organized by a boy from another troop, an outsider who frequented our campsite, corrupting our troop. One day I made a lewd remark. Upon that pretext he took hold of me, got one of our boys to join in, and they dragged me behind a tent. This was my initiating sexual experience. Forcible sodomy.

The next summer, when I was fourteen, I went to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. It was the most magical experience of my entire childhood, and the beginning of my love for the southwest. I thought everything was going to be O.K.

When I was fifteen I was a Stag – the Scout Training Advanced Group – the future staff members of Camp Boyhaven. Sixteen of us, eight at a time, lived without adult supervision in a bunkhouse for four weeks. One night, without provocation, two of the Stags forced me onto a table. Three other Stags joined in. They stripped me of my clothing, held me down by my wrists and ankles, and took turns molesting me. The other two Stags stood frozen in a doorway, horrified onlookers, the big one protecting the little one. When it was over, I spent the night in the woods without a flashlight or a blanket.

I couldn’t quit. I needed the Lifesaving merit badge to become an Eagle Scout. And the only place I could earn it was Camp Boyhaven. I had to live with all five of my assailants every night for the next three weeks. By the time I got home I was a broken boy. I did not self-identify as a victim. I was a tough, resilient kid who would get through this somehow, all by myself, without ever telling anyone what happened. But I no longer went to troop meetings, and I started smoking marijuana at my first opportunity. Then I got arrested, charged with two first degree felonies for a fifteen dollar bag, and I got kicked out of my Boy Scout troop. The pillars of the community said I was a bad kid, I had ruined my life, I could never amount to anything. Nobody asked why a nice kid with a clean record and all those merit badges had turned to marijuana in the first place.

Until I was twenty-five years old I lacked the self-esteem to seek a college degree. I went on to earn degrees in four fields, including a Ph.D. I have been a college professor, consulting geologist, land title examiner, and private investigator. I am a folk musician, trail caretaker, established poet, and published historian.

Still, I had recurrent nightmares for thirty years about not becoming an Eagle Scout, and it still hurts. Last June when searching the web for Philmont memorabilia I found that any boy who meets the requirements before his eighteenth birthday shall become an Eagle Scout, no exceptions, and the award may be presented at any time thereafter. So I called up the Twin Rivers Council, expecting to get the records proving what merit badges I had earned. I was told that all the records prior to the nineteen eighties had been destroyed.

When the Perversion Files were released I saw no record of sex offenders in our council prior to 1986, and I thought we had dodged a bullet. Now I was not so sure. I searched the web to see what had become of the instigators of the sexual assaults upon my person. One is the younger brother of a pedophile priest who was defrocked for molesting a thirteen-year-old Boy Scout. One became Chief of Police. One changed his name and moved to California. So I drafted an affidavit, and I began looking for legal counsel the next day. That is when I found out about the Child Victims Act. I am living proof of why it is needed. It took me fifty-two years to come forward.

Thank you Richard for sharing your story!


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  • Susan Semans
    commented 2021-04-10 23:13:45 -0500
    I participated in this wonderful, eye-opening Survivor Speak Out event. I heard Richard’s story and felt great compassion for him. Thank you, Richard. I hope to speak at the next event. I took great heart at the idea that we must never stop speaking out. People have asked me why I keep it alive, and this is why.
  • Zach Hiner
    published this page in Blog 2021-04-09 12:18:44 -0500

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