The local Boy Scouts of America organization was hit with a lawsuit this week, after an adult assistant Scoutmaster was found to have sexually abused a minor Eagle Scout.
During a news conference Tuesday, the Eagle Scout, a 17-year-old from Chico referred to in the lawsuit only as John Doe, spoke out about the ordeal and urged other childhood sexual assault victims to come forward.
“I was led into developing a relationship during which I was molested and raped,” John said, holding back tears. “My point today is to make a message … that it’s OK to come forward. It’s not easy. It’s a terrible experience, but unless you say something, it will never get better.”
His attorney, Joseph C. George of Sacramento, declined to disclose the victim’s name because he is a minor. The perpetrator, Dustin Hedrick, was 21 and 22 at the time he sexually assaulted John in 2010 and 2012, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Sacramento Superior Court. George said Hedrick made repeated sexual overtures via social media during that period.
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Hedrick, an assistant Scoutmaster, used “the power, authority and trust of his positions” to entice John into criminal child sexual acts, the lawsuit alleges.
Hedrick pleaded no contest to a charge of committing a lewd act upon a 13-year-old child and was sentenced to six years in state prison, the lawsuit states.
The complaint alleges that officials with Golden Empire Council, the local Scouting organization covering much of Northern California, were negligent in their oversight of Hedrick and were aware of his sexual activities with other minor Boy Scouts.
Chuck Brasfeild, executive of the Golden Empire Council, declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit but noted that Hedrick was removed from the organization in 2012.
“This behavior runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands,” Brasfeild said in a statement Tuesday.
The social media guidelines for the Boy Scouts of America suggest that adult Scout leaders avoid private communication online to protect the safety and privacy of children, according to a copy of the policy posted on the organization’s website.
“This enables administrators to monitor all communication and help ensure there is no inappropriate communication between adult leaders and Scouts or between Scouts themselves,” the policy reads.
George said he hopes the lawsuit will prompt the popular Scouting organization to institute change and protect the rights of young boys.
“They had never even seen each other face to face for over a year, but had constant ongoing contact through social media,” George said of John’s encounters with Hedrick. “Sex criminals will use any vehicle available. Social media is a real fertile area, which most organizations know.”
He declined to disclose how much restitution the family is seeking.
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.