He is 57 years old now, happily married with a beautiful little granddaughter.
But nearly a half century ago when he was a young Boy Scout in South Buffalo, he endured a week of unimaginable abuse that he has spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with.
Last month, he read an article in The Buffalo News about 13 local Boy Scout leaders who were accused of abusing children and banned from the Scouts by the national leadership. The News story followed the release of hundreds of files on alleged pedophiles that the Scouts kept between 1965 and 1985 to prevent predators from rejoining the organization. The files were released as part of a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America.
The newspaper report brought back a flood of memories for the man, and he called The News to share his story.
The article that appeared Nov. 12 reported on letters in the file of one South Buffalo scout leader, following a camping trip in Canada during the summer of 1967.
The letters were from parents who presented detailed allegations of abuse by the scout leader, mostly incidents on the bus ride from the trip.
“I’m the boy on the bus,” the man said in a message left on a reporter’s phone.
And what happened on that trip was far worse than depicted in the letters, he later told the reporter.
The man who called The News recounted his terrible memories of that trip on the condition his name not be used. Because all of the names in the file have been redacted, it could not be determined whether the parents of the man who spoke to The News were among those who had written to the Boy Scouts of America. The man knew details about the allegations in the file that indicate he was indeed among the boys who endured the abuse.
The News is also withholding the name of the accused Scout leader because records indicate he never was criminally charged. Records also indicate that leader is dead.
Looking back at it, the man now knows there was at least one warning sign of what was to come.
Sometime before the trip to Canada, his troop visited a water treatment facility in Evans. The man recalled that he and another scout went to use the restroom, where the Scout leader exposed himself to them.
“It kind of was a shock,” the man said. “I didn’t know how to take it. As a kid, you don’t know nothing.”
He never said anything to his parents about the incident.
He can’t remember how the abuse started but he recounted he hadn’t been afraid of the man he said molested him repeatedly.
The leader was 26 at the time. He wasn’t tall, but he was heavyset. The Boy Scout file on him said he was single and worked as a skilled laborer.
The survivor said he was 10 years old when he went on the trip to a lakeside camping site in Ontario.
“That was a horrible week,” he recounted.
Nothing happened on the bus ride over. But at some point, he recalled that the leader took him to an abandoned part of the camp site.
“It was a part of the camp, and he said because I was bad he was going to spank me,” the man recalled.
The leader pulled the boy’s pants down, hit him and molested him.
The leader then told him: “Don’t you say anything.”
The man recalled seeing the Scout leader doing the same things to two brothers.
On at least two nights, the man said, the leader came to the pup tent that he was sharing with another Scout. The leader told the other boy that he was needed somewhere. And then he would molest the lone Scout.
The abuse didn’t end at the camp.
On the bus ride home, the leader sat next to him and repeatedly tried to molest him, the survivor said.
“If somebody walked by, he would kind of turn toward me ... and shield what he was doing, like he was looking out the window,” the man said.
Thinking back on what happened, the survivor said he finds it hard to believe none of the other adults figured out there was a problem.
“I can’t believe that there wasn’t suspicion amongst them,” he said.
But he also knows people are more knowledgeable about such things now.
“With the climate and culture at the time, people were naive. They just didn’t want to believe things,” he said.
The man recalled how he was so upset by what the leader was doing to him that he wet his pants.
When he got home, the man said, he didn’t tell his parents about what had happened.
“I was embarrassed, scared of all that,” he said.
But when his mother put him in the bath tub, there was no hiding the bruises and blood on his body.
The parents went to the church that sponsored the Scout troop to discuss with the priest what happened.
The man said he doesn’t know exactly what transpired, but a month later the molester was gone.
“He wasn’t there when I went back,” he said.
The man noticed that all of the other Scouts were looking at him.
“All the kids, they knew about me wetting my pants. I felt all these eyes on me. It just was uncomfortable,” he said. “I never returned.”
He tried to explain how it felt to be so terrified and helpless at the camp site.
“I kind of think like I was frozen,” he said. “Like a kid in a movie that was terrified, that something really scared them that they think they’re going to die from fright. It was kind of like that.”
The man doesn’t believe his parents or anyone went to the police. The News found no records that the leader was ever arrested. The man isn’t surprised by that.
“My parents didn’t want it noticed,” he sad. “They didn’t want it publicized. They didn’t want to bring shame on the family.”
The Scout leadership in Buffalo and on the national level did take steps to kick the leader out of their organization, acting within days of the parents writing about the camping trip, the released files show.
The survivor never saw the leader who abused him again. But there were many times when the street lights would dim, he was late getting back home and he’d worry that the man would suddenly show up.
Over the next couple of years, the survivor said he had a hard time at school.
But he also developed a protective instinct toward other kids being picked on. He had a gay friend in high school whom he often defended, often at the expense of being called derogatory names.
“That didn’t really bother me, names like that,” he said. “I was tough enough. I had to get tough.”
He kept his terrible memories to himself for many years until he got married and finally told his story.
He never let his son join a Scout troop.
What happened at that camp site changed the man forever, he said.
“He stole my childhood from me. He stole my innocence.”
But he also tries not to harbor hatred.
And what would he do today if he could confront the man who abused him?
“I wouldn’t do anything to him now,” the survivor said. “He’s an old man now.”
Records indicate a man of the same name and age who lived in the Buffalo area died a few years ago.
“He probably paid his dues along the lines somehow,” the man said. “He won’t be doing it to anymore kids ... I hope that the good Lord maybe forgives you.”
The survivor said he reached out to one of the attorneys who got the national Scout case files released. He was disheartened to learn that because of New York State’s statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, there’s nothing he can do.
He holds the Boy Scouts of America responsible for what happened to him.
The state’s laws could change soon. Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey, D-Queens, has been pushing legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations in such cases, which currently is five years after the victim turns 18.
Because such a law could not be applied retroactively, her bill also includes a one year “window” of opportunity from the time the legislation passes for victims to file civil suits in old cases.
She has pushed versions of the bill for eight years, and it has passed in the Assembly four times but has gone nowhere in the Senate. She is introducing the latest version in January and has been working with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to try to get it passed.
The man said he hopes that by at least telling his story, other victims will know they’re not alone and that they can go on to have happy lives.
“It’s made me, I feel as far as my character, very honorable,” he said. “I’ve always tried to do the right thing. Not that I’m a perfectionist or anything like that. But right is right. Maybe it all stems from what happened. It altered my life. But I have a good life. A beautiful granddaughter. A good son. We do the family thing. Maybe it’ll help.”