Molested Scout Had Previous Problems, Lawyer Says
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) _ A lawyer for the Boy Scouts of America said Tuesday that psychological problems plaguing a boy who was sexually molested by his scoutmaster stem from his unstable family life.
The family of the youth, who is now 17, is suing the scouts and former scoutmaster Carlton L. Bittenbender, saying the boy suffers from a stress disorder because of Bittenbender’s assaults and that the scouts’ system for detecting child abusers is inadequate and ineffective.
But attorney Robert E. Cadigan told a Fairfax County, Va., Circuit Court jury in his opening arguments that the teen, whose name is not being publicly revealed, required psychiatric treatment as early as the third grade, long before he met Bittenbender at age 12.
″The fact is, this youth had many problems even before Bittenbender came on the scene,″ said Cadigan.
The boy willingly submitted to a sexual relationship with his scoutmaster for 10 or 11 months, Cadigan told the jury of three men and six women. ″Evidence will show that at no time when this relationship was going on did (the youth) have emotional problems.″
Instead, Cadigan charged, the boy had to go to a psychiatric hospital two months after the relationship with Bittenbender ended in Dec. 1985 because he was acting out his anger over long-term family problems.
″When Bittenbender’s name was brought up (during the youth’s hospitalization ),″ said Cadigan, ″it caused no adverse emotional response from (the boy). On the contrary, he idolized Bittenbender.
″It was his parents’ visits that caused an adverse emotional response,″ he said.
The youth’s mother had a sexual relationship with Bittenbender for about four months during the period when the scoutmaster was molesting the boy, Cadigan said.
The boy’s father was a homosexual, had a drinking problem, and moved out of the family’s home late last year, Cadigan said. He also said a psychologist had diagnosed the father as being a ″possible manic depressive.″
The family’s attorney, William A. Barton, said Monday that Bittenbender was able to evade detection because the organization, fearing negative publicity, was reluctant to publicize abuse cases and identify abusers. He also said there were no internal safeguards against potential child molesters within the scouts.
On Monday, Barton had also discussed the problems troubling the boy’s parents.
Barry Bach, another attorney for the scouts, said the organization kept confidential files to screen out people who were unfit to lead scout troops.
Bittenbender is serving a 30-year prison term for his 1985 conviction for sodomy and aggravated sexual battery against three boys under the age of 13, including the youth represented in the lawsuit. He had had a prior history of molesting boys that resulted in dismissals from New England public schools and convictions on four counts of second-degree sexual assault as scoutmaster of a Rhode Island troop in 1981.
The boy’s family is seeking about $100,000 for his health care costs plus punitive damages.