Sex-abuse victim breaks silence on Scouts settlement
A former Toronto boy scout is breaking years of silence about a confidentiality agreement he signed with the Boy Scouts of Canada, saying he’d feel "victimized again" if he stayed mum on the secret deal.
Mark Johnston is one of dozens of former boy scouts across the country who have signed confidentiality agreements in out-of-court settlements of lawsuits against the Canadian scouting group in the past 15 years, CBC News has learned.
Each of the 13 civil suits accused Scouts Canada of failing in some way to protect scouts from pedophiles.
Like most of the victims who signed confidentiality agreements, Johnston is forbidden from publicly disclosing the amount of the settlement or even that a settlement was reached. Johnston revealed to CBC, however, that his settlement was in the six-figure range.
"The fact that you’re not allowed to talk about it, you feel victimized again," said Johnston, 53, who works as a police detective.
In the early 1970s, Johnston’s scoutmaster, William Easton, molested him for more than four years at various places, including the Haliburton Scout Reserve.
"How can you make sure people are aware that this kind of stuff can happen if you don’t talk about it?" he asked. "If you remain totally silent, then it’s just going to happen again."
In at least one confidentiality agreement unearthed by CBC News, the victim was prohibited from even publicly talking about the abuse itself.
However, Johnston can freely discuss the details of the abuse in his case, according to his agreement.
A ‘chilling effect’
But Rob Talach, an Ontario lawyer who deals extensively with sex abuse cases, says a pact banning a sex abuse victim from relaying information about a settlement can make them feel muzzled.
Across the country
Northern Ontario, Manitoba
"[Confidentiality agreements] produce a chilling effect on the victims," said Talach.
The agreement may "in the mind of a victim" prevent them from mentioning the abuse to others, including police, says Talach.
Talach, who represented clients suing the Roman Catholic church, says that institution no longer attempts to secure settlement agreements with such controversial clauses.
In the 2001 lawsuit filed by Johnston and six other plaintiffs, the Canadian scouting organization is accused of failing to take appropriate steps to protect the scouts when it heard information and complaints about Easton.
One of the boys' mothers allegedly told Scout officials twice about suspicions and concerns over the scoutmaster in the late 1970s, but says they were dismissive of her complaints.
The allegations are unproven in court.
In 1999, Easton was convicted of molesting seven Scouts, including Johnston, plus three other children, between the 1960s and ‘80s. He had two previous sex-abuse convictions from the 1980s.
Easton could not be reached for comment.
Johnston says he still thinks the Boy Scouts is a great organization, but doesn’t want any sex-abuse victims to feel like they can’t speak out about their experience.
"I would like to see more victims come forward," he says.
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