Boy Scout sexual abuse exposed in Charlotte County
WINK News has pieced together some of the links between accusations of sexually abused children in Southwest Florida from the Boy Scouts of America and dozens up north. William Sheehan taught school in San Carlos Park and was a camp counselor in Charlotte County. We have confirmed on Wednesday that he lost his teaching certificate because of what he did to a child at that camp.
Bill Dudley, a who leads a group of survivors, said Sheehan resorted to cruel tactics to commit heinous crimes. “To keep them quiet, I know of a number of survivors who he told them, ‘if you don’t let me do it to you, I’ll get your little brother or your little sister,'” he said. “And I know boys it makes me wanna cry who allow themselves to be abused so their little brother wouldn’t.”
One of those survivors, Aaron Averhart, was a boy scout at Camp Miles in Charlotte County. “I call Aaron Averhart braver heart because he’s the kid who was brave enough,” Dudley said. “The first one to actually report.”
The News-Press and USA Today were first to report the connection. Sheehan was a teacher at San Carlos Park Elementry and a Boy Scout leader in Southwest Florida during the 1980s. Sheehan is also accused of sexually abusing as many as 50 boys in and around Massachusets.
Dudley said he is among Sheehan’s victims. In at least one incident, Dudley says he told Sheehan he did not have any shoes on. “He said, ‘oh, that’s all right. Come on anyway.’ Well, he was glad of that because I couldn’t run away.”
A Florida Dept. of Education complaint describes repeated sexual abuse at Camp Miles. Sheehan would go into the boy’s cabin. “Pardon me for saying this,” Dudley said. “He would rape them.” By the time police in Massachusetts made a case against the suspect, Sheehan had advanced Alzheimer’s disease. He died in Fort Myers in 2017. It is important to note that Sheehan did not dispute any of the allegations in the complaint.
The Boy Scouts of America, in a statement to WINK News, said:
“First and foremost, we care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, and we pay for unlimited counseling for abuse victims and their families by a provider of their choice, regardless of the amount of time that has passed since an instance of abuse. We require no proof; a victim need only make a request.
The safety and protection of children is the most important priority of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The BSA has a multi-layered process of safeguards, including the following, all of which act as barriers to abuse:
- Ongoing mandatory youth protection education for all volunteers, parents, and Scouts;
- A leader selection process that includes criminal background checks and other screening efforts
- A leadership policy which requires at least two youth-protection trained adults be present with youth at all times and prohibits one-on-one situations where adults would have any interaction alone with children – either in person, online, or via text;
- Prompt mandatory reporting to law enforcement of any allegation or suspicion of abuse;
- A 24/7 Scouts First Helpline (1-844-726-8871) and email contact address ([email protected]) to access counseling and help needed to report any suspected abuse or inappropriate behavior; and
- The Volunteer Screening Database – a tool the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for all youth-serving organizations – to bar individuals that should not be working with children from joining our programs.
We believe victims and remove individuals based on only allegations of inappropriate behavior. We steadfastly believe that one incident of abuse is one too many and we are continually improving all of our policies to prevent abuse. This is precisely why we fully support and advocate for the creation of a national registry overseen by a governmental entity, similar to the national sex offender registry, of those who are suspected of child abuse or inappropriate behavior with a child, thus allowing all youth- serving organizations to share and access such information. We call upon Congress and other youth-serving organizations to support this initiative.”