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National & World

Siblings discover dad's Scout abuse, remember own

Siblings discover dad's Scout abuse, remember own
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On opposite sides of the world, the brother and sister sat transfixed before their computers, reading a stranger's account of long-ago secrets and deeply buried sins.

The memo was just four pages long, about an incident in 1963 at a Boy Scout camp in New Jersey. A Scout executive had gotten drunk during an overnight outing, then was discovered gambling with a group of boys. But there was more.

The brother and sister read on - about how this man "was observed molesting an Explorer Scout sitting at his side." About how he was admitted, voluntarily, to a mental hospital. They read about an investigation that determined he had tried to molest another Scout. It found that this man's "problem," as the document called it, had apparently existed for decades.

They read, too, about a call from this local Boy Scouts council for "suppression of spread of incident beyond group with knowledge of it." ''We know enough to advise that Brandon P. Gray should never again be registered in any capacity with the Boy Scouts of America," the memo stated.

In Alabama, her face lit by the glow of her computer monitor, Carol Gray sat back. While shocking in its way, none of what she read had really surprised her. The drinking, the abuse. They were sins she knew well, for they were the sins of her father. And she had been a victim.

Eight thousand miles away, in a village in Africa, Jim Gray shared his sister's sense of numbness. The memo reaffirmed, in stark black and white, what he had also experienced firsthand. "I'm not crazy," he thought, feeling some semblance of vindication.

Adults now, these siblings say they suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father. For Carol, the nightmare began long before the Boy Scouts learned of Gray's proclivities and fired him. But for Jim, the end of his father's scouting career was the beginning of his own torment.

The story of Brandon Gray is the story of the inaction of the Boy Scouts of America.

For his children, it is the story of what happens when secrecy reigns and what might have been if not for the Boy Scouts' silence.

___

The confidential personnel record is dated Feb. 27, 1963. It tells the story - part of the story - of Brandon Gray, 38, married, father of a son and two daughters.

Gray was a district Scout executive in Morristown, N.J., a paid position that put him in charge of several troops. He began his Scouting career as a volunteer before taking jobs in New Jersey and New York.

According to his file, Gray started drinking on Feb. 2, 1963, at the Scouts' Mt. Allamuchy camp in Stanhope, N.J., during the annual Klondike Derby, an event in which Scouts pull sleds. That evening, he was discovered playing cards for cash in a cabin with several Explorer Scouts, in violation of camp policy.

Gray, the file said, "was observed molesting" one of those Scouts, whose age wasn't mentioned. An adult in the room moved the boy away from Gray, but took no further action "in an effort to avoid a 'scene,'" the record stated. Gray continued to drink, grew agitated and attempted to hit someone. Adult Scouts then subdued him and eventually he fell asleep.

By the next morning, Gray's wife, Ruth, had been contacted and Gray admitted himself to a mental hospital. The Scouts then met with the Explorer, who confirmed "the violation." Upon his release from the hospital, Gray was terminated. No records identified by The Associated Press show any charges or convictions for Gray in connection with the incident or any other charges for sex abuse.

That was the norm in many cases recorded in the "perversion files" - a collection of documents the Boy Scouts maintained for years on men the organization suspected of so-called acts of perversion, ranging from gambling and theft to suspicions of sexual deviance.

Files from the years 1959 to the late 1980s came to light last year as a result of a civil lawsuit in Oregon; they showed that men were excluded from the Scouts but rarely prosecuted. Some went on to work in other youth organizations, with boys the same age as the Scouts they allegedly abused.

After his dismissal on Feb. 7, 1963, Gray went home to his family. Carol was 12 years old. Jim was only 7.

___

Old memories can flicker and fade. But for Carol and Jim, some memories simply aren't there, an abyss they say protects them from remembering some of the worst of their abuse.

Carol believes hers began when she was 5 years old. Years of psychiatric help and attempts to recover memories haven't yielded much more. But a fact from her past lingers: "I believe that mine stopped when Dad started abusing my brother."

Brandon Gray's removal from Scouting was, his son said, the beginning of a decade of sexual abuse. It began soon after that February day in 1963 and continued until Jim graduated high school and joined the U.S. Marines Corps.

Unlike Carol, Jim has little trouble remembering. His father would stalk up the stairs and push his way into Jim's room. Once, when Jim was about 11 years old, his mother walked in to find him and his father engaged in a sexual act. She turned and walked out. A day later, she moved Jim's entire bedroom upstairs, the posters in the same place they had been in his old room, the bed in the same spot.

It was, he said, his mother's attempt at physically shunting off the problem she could no longer deny.

"I felt sacrificed," Jim said.

By age 12 or 13, he recalled, when his father would act distant or give Jim the silent treatment, Jim would initiate sex. It was the only way, he felt, to get his father's approval.

No one in the family acknowledged what was happening under their roof at night. But whatever tensile strands that held the family in place began to wither under the strain. Jim, the bright, engaging boy, and Carol, the vivacious girl, ceased to exist. In their place, grew poor approximations.

Carol became a moody introvert. She no longer made friends, and the friends she had, she lost.

She cried constantly, asking her mother, "What's wrong with me? How come nobody likes me?"

Jim turned angry. A good student early on, he had to repeat the fourth grade, the year he says his father began to abuse him. It took very little to set him off.

Eileen Gray, Jim and Carol's elder sister, is 68 and lives outside Tallahassee, Fla. She said she was abused emotionally and verbally abused by their father but never abused sexually, and only learned of her siblings' experience when they told her about it, later in life.

"The three of us would fight with each other but at the same time we would make deals to protect each other from our father's wrath," she said in an email. "It was like 'a war zone.' We never knew what mood he would be in, and we adjusted our actions accordingly."

Carol moved out as soon as she was able. Jim followed suit in 1973, the year he graduated high school, the year their mother died. The family blew apart.

___

At 23, Carol bottomed out when she tried to kill herself. She would find herself drawn to religion. Twice she went through the application process for Catholic religious orders and twice the community cited her father's drinking and mental illness as reasons to reject her. After her second rejection, she cried herself to sleep.

Then a nun named Sister Faith urged her to give it one more try. She did, and her acceptance led her to Maryland, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Mississippi and, finally, Tuscaloosa, Ala., where she now serves as regional director for Catholic Social Services of West Alabama, providing food, counseling and financial assistance to predominantly low-income families.

"Did the sex abuse end up being a part of why this lifestyle ended up being the right one for me?" said Carol, now 62. "I can't say it wasn't."

One night in the early 1990s, while at a Jesuit retreat, Carol awoke from a nightmare. The dream was unclear, but she remembers being on a bed, fighting to hold onto her sheets as someone tried to pull them away. She spent part of the next day praying outdoors when, suddenly, she was unable to breathe. The sensation was accompanied by a revelation. At last, after repeated denials in counseling, decades after it happened, Carol remembered the abuse.

"It just washed over me all at once," Carol said. "I completely fell apart."

Just days later, Jim called.

"This will sound crazy to you," he told his sister, "but Dad abused me."

His own path was a harrowing one. He had become acutely homophobic, he said. He wanted to prove that, despite the abuse, he wasn't "a sissy boy." He drank, fought and drank more.

"I had so many mental health problems, not even the U.S. Marine Corps could straighten me out," Jim said. Three decades of failed attempts at recovery followed, including a second stint in the Marines and a period where Jim said he was both a workaholic and an alcoholic.

In 2001, he said he finally got sober for the last time. He now works for the Peace Corps in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The worst thing about the sexual abuse, mental health problems, alcoholism and all that ... are the losses," said Jim, 58. "The loss of being able to maintain healthy relationships, intimacy, having children. These things that most people take for granted, I won't have those.

"By the time I recovered, it was too late to do those things."

___

When the Scouts removed him from their ranks, Brandon Gray took a position as the executive director of the American Cancer Society in Bergen County, N.J. But he would be sued for redirecting checks intended for the society into his own bank account, according to a 1977 account in The New York Times.

The story in The Times said Gray was accused of stealing more than $30,000 from the organization, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Cancer Society's insurer in federal court. No record of a conviction or acquittal could be obtained by the AP.

In that same period, Gray founded a Knights of Columbus youth program called the Squires. Ray Duda was 15 years old when he met Gray through the program. Duda, now 66 and living in Conway, S.C., says Gray had on some occasions groped him in a car or while swimming on group outings. "I never really felt I had to report that," he says, his voice soft. "I just didn't see it as any big deal."

In the years after Ruth's death, Gray went on to work for a law firm in San Diego, and for a brief time lived in Kansas City, Mo. He left California in 2000 and moved back to New Hampshire. He died in 2004, at the age of 79.

Jim remembers trying to reconcile with him, only to be laughed at. Carol remembers visiting him in the early 1990s, just after she began to recover memories of her abuse, only to be told her father now found women "distasteful." He denied ever abusing her.

"Even to the end," Carol said, "he was the same man."

This past October, Carol learned about the "perversion" files from local news accounts. She told Jim. Neither had heard of the Scouts' files previously. To Jim, they held few surprises, save that the Scouts suspected something was wrong with their father and did enough to protect Scouts, but no one else.

Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement to the AP that sex abuse of children in the 1960s was considered a mental illness, and Scouting policy has changed dramatically since then.

"Consistent with the thinking at the time, Scouting worked with medical counselors and this man's wife to have him checked into a mental care facility and removed him from Scouting," Smith said. "The abuse of a child is abhorrent and we extend our deepest apologies to victims and their families, including those, like in this case, who were abused outside of the Scouting program."

For Carol, what shocked her most was seeing her mother mentioned in the perversion file. The document noted that Scout leaders obtained medical advice for handling the situation with her father "in cooperation with Mrs. Gray."

Had her mother known all along what was happening and not done more to protect her and her brother?

"She was not the woman I thought she was," Carol said.

Jim contacted The Associated Press after the files were released in mid-October. He did so because he said he wants to show that victims of sex abuse can, with a lot of work, live full lives. He believes that he and his sister are proof of that.

He also wants to show the real consequences of the Scouts' inaction.

"One of the toughest things to get over is the shame, the unhealthy shame that your life doesn't belong to you," he said. "I had to recognize that it wasn't my fault. I was the victim. Keeping the secret keeps power over that shame."

He still struggles with the memories of his abuse.

"Am I healed? I wish that were possible," he said. "Like a person who has lost an arm or a leg, I have learned to adapt. I do not think I will ever be healed. I can say that I am happy more than I am sad."
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