KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — This Boy Scouts of America rape survivor is 44 now, with lots of tattoos.
He breaks down when talking about what happened to him in April 1990. He was 12. His assistant Boy Scouts leader was 26.
“It was in a tent,” said the survivor, a Kalamazoo man who doesn’t want to be identified.
Records show it happened at the Moose Lodge campground near Otsego, where he was camping with his Jenison Boy Scouts Troop 354.
His aunt and uncle, who were raising him, had signed him up for Boy Scouts and he liked it at first.
“I don’t know what they were looking for, maybe straighten me up,” he said.
“Then that incident happened where Robert Gleason took advantage of somebody that couldn’t defend himself,” he said. “That was me.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel expects this survivor is among as many as 3,000 children in Michigan who were sexually assaulted by Boy Scouts volunteers over the decades.
Few instances have led to criminal charges. In fact, of the two dozen Boy Scouts volunteers from West Michigan barred by the organization from serving because of child abuse, just two of them are on the state sex offender registry, according to a Target 8 analysis.
On Thursday, Nessel released a public service announcement asking victims to come forward, hoping it could lead to prosecutions.
Nessel said she believes her investigation will reveal that the sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts was far more prevalent than it was within the Catholic Church.
“It’s hard to be in my position as the top law enforcement official in the state to know that there’s likely upwards of 3,000 victims that were victimized here in our state and just sit here and twiddle my thumbs,” Nessel said. “It’s not something I’m willing to do.”
She said the same team of assistant attorneys general and state police detectives that worked on the clergy abuse investigation — leading to charges against 11 priests and four convictions — has started working on the Boy Scouts case.
She said they are using search warrants to obtain documents from the Boy Scouts of America.
“As we know, in these cases, time is often of the essence and the sooner that we can begin investigating these known cases, the faster we can hold somebody accountable and honestly make sure they are not preying on others,” Nessel said. “Often times, these predators will have multiple victims; they don’t generally have just one or two victims, oftentimes you’ll find dozens of people that were victimized by the same predator.”
She said she believes many of the offenders and victims could be from outside Michigan since the state was a destination for out-of-state Boy Scouts troops.
The man raped by his assistant troop leader 30 years ago said he expects there are a lot of victims just like him.
“I’m sure there’s cases out here, you know, maybe people don’t want to speak, or they want to put it behind them,” he said.
Robert Gleason, his then-26-year-old assistant troop leader, was charged with first-degree sexual assault for raping him. The boy was among as many as five sexually assaulted by Gleason in the early 1990s, including an 11-year-old Boy Scout at a camp in Muskegon County.
“To let somebody like this that preyed on children, you know, kids that couldn’t defend himself, and he’s a grown man and he’s supposed to be in the Boy Scouts of America,” the Kalamazoo man said.
Gleason went to prison for convictions in Allegan, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. He is now on the sex offender registry and living in in Grand Rapids. He is among at least 140 volunteers barred from working with the Boy Scouts in Michigan.
Anyone with information about the Boy Scouts of America is asked to call the AG’s investigation hotline at 844.324.3374 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tips can be left anonymously.