Two men who were members of Madison Boy Scout Troop # 490 have filed suit against the Boy Scouts of America, saying that they were abused by their former scoutmaster, David "Dirk" Davenport, when they were members of the troop in the early 1980's.
The lawsuit, in New Haven Superior Court, is being filed against the Boy Scouts of America, Corp., the Connecticut Yankee Council, Inc., and the Boy Scouts of America.
The lawyer for the two men, Kelly Clark of Portland, Oregon, who specializes in cases relating to abuse by Boy Scout leaders, says that the scouting organization knew or should have known that Davenport was a pedophile, because he was accused of child molestation while involved with the scouts in Weeping Water, Nebraska, Dodge Center, Minnesota, and Medford, Minnesota, all before coming to Madison. Lawyers for the men who filed the suit Tuesday said they had heard reports that he spent some time in Thailand. News reports published Wednesday indicate that he is an associate pastor at an alternative church in Florida.
"20,000 pages representing the Perversion files"
"The allegations that we're making in this lawsuit are similar to ones we've brought elsewhere," said Clark, who has more than 60 cases in more than a dozen states against the Boy Scouts of America. "We had a trial in Portland, Oregon two years ago. We entered into evidence 20,000 pages that represented the Perversion files of the Boy Scouts from 1965 to 1985. We contend, and the jury agreed, that the Boy Scouts realized they had a serious problem with pedophiles, but they really didn't take active steps to deal with it. And they didn't warn parents and families about the risks. In this case, between what they knew institutionally about the organization being targeted by pedophiles, and what they knew or should have known about this scoutmaster, we contend that they were negligent in terms of protecting kids."
A jury in the Oregon trial against Boy Scouts of America awarded $18.5 million in punitive damages.
Clark says Davenport was a scoutmaster in Madison for a year or two before he was arrested and convicted. Clark said it appears as though as many as nine children, or more, may have been involved in the abuse.
At least nine victims
"The state's attorney at the time identified at least nine victims," Clark said. "We don't know if all of them were scouts."
Frank C. Bartlett, Jr., a lawyer from the Cheshire law firm of Ouellette, Deganis & Gallagher, LLC said that some of the abuse occurred at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Madison. He said that the church is where the scout meetings were held. "We are not saying that Mr. Davenport was associated with the church or that the church knew what was going on," he said.
The suit also says some of the abuse occurred at Camp Deer Lake in Killingworth. Deer Lake Scout Reservation is a 253-acre property owned and operated by the Connecticut Yankee Council.
Pervasive problems typical of those abused by someone they trust
Clark said the victims, now in their early 40's, suffer from panic attacks, relationship problems, and other issues. He said this is typical of victims who are abused by someone they trust.
"One of two things happens," Clark says. "Either the victims internalize all of this and end up with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Or they externalize them and end up with problems with violence, a history of drug and alcohol abuse, or multiple addictions."
Clark said one of the victims decided to take action against his abuser, and the organization he was a part of, after his child was born.
The scouts looked up to their scoutmaster, considered him a friend
Clark said Davenport cultivated his victims by buying them pizza, gifts, befriending them, and making them feel special when they were between 13 and 15 years old. Clark said the victims looked up to Davenport.
"Oftentimes, with kids and a trusted adult who is an abuser, whether it's a priest or a scoutmaster or someone else they know, the damage comes not so much from the molestation and abuse, but from the betrayal," Clark said. "They wonder, 'who can I trust?'"
He said studies show that children who are assaulted by scout leaders, clergy, friends, or family members almost always fare worse than children who are assaulted by total strangers.
"So [if they are assaulted by a total stranger] maybe they know the world is not always a safe place, but they still have trust in people they know. When you are betrayed by a trusted friend, who in the world can you trust?"
Abuse occured on camping trips, troop meetings, events, while working on merit badges
The lawsuit says that from about 1984 to 1985, Davenport subjected the victims to multiple instances of sexual abuse, molestation, and assault while on camping trips, troop meetings, events, and while the scouts were working on merit badges.
The victims subsequently suffered from a wide array of physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering as a result, the suit says, and, "as a further result ... the Plaintiff has been prevented from and deprived of the opportunity to fully enjoy his childhood and adolescence."
“Childhood sexual abuse is a kind of vandalism to the soul,” said Clark in a prepared release, “and 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.”
Davenport served several years in prison
Bartlett added, “the Connecticut Legislature obviously understood the delayed disclosure dynamic in child abuse cases, and wisely provided that survivors of child sexual abuse should have until 30 years after their 18th birthdays to bring legal action for their abuse.”
An article in the Providence Journal says "Davenport was arrested in Guilford, Conn., in 1985 on charges that he abused boys. The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., has reported he pleaded guilty to two charges and served 2 1/2 years in prison. Prison officials declined Tuesday to immediately provide records."
Boy Scouts of America response
An article on WTNH.com provides a response from the Boy Scouts of America that says "The abuse of anyone, and especially children, is abhorrent and intolerable, and the Boy Scouts of America continues to evolve our multi-layered youth protection efforts. In the 25 years since the events described, Scouting has mandated training and education for everyone in our organization and designed policies that prevent one-on-one contact between youth and adults. Today, anyone suspected of abuse is immediately removed from Scouting, reported to law enforcement and Scout executives and added to our Ineligible Volunteer Files ... ..upon becoming aware of this abuse, this man was immediately removed from Scouting, and was prosecuted and convicted by the authorities."
The Boy Scouts of America also currently has a Youth Protection Program: "Scouting takes any allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously, whether or not the individual ever served as a Scout leader, and whether or not that person behaved inappropriately with a Scout or any other child. Scouting policy requires the prompt reporting of inappropriate conduct. When such issues are reported, the individual is added to the Ineligible Volunteer Files maintained by the National Council, whether or not the allegations are proven. The Ineligible Volunteer Files have successfully kept dangerous and potentially dangerous individuals out by enabling Scouting to identify those individuals who have been barred from the organization, even based on suspicion alone."