An Athens Boy Scout now grown and fighting demons of childhood victimization
Alan McArthur wants to talk about his early teens.
He wants to talk about how he joined the Boy Scouts at age 12, how hugs from his scoutmaster turned into kisses, and how he can still smell the man’s aftershave. He wants to share how he initially cherished the day he thought he avoided the man by taking the bus home instead of accepting a ride only to find his rapist drinking tea with his parents at their house.
Alan McArthur, a 49-year-old Athenian with a successful business, wants to expel 35-year-old nightmares he says were induced by Ernest P. Boland, the man he alleges raped him for years when he was a teen.
“I need to speak the truth,” Alan said. “I need to take my power back.”
Today, Alan jokes about how much he hates camping, something for which the Boy Scouts of America are renowned.
But then, in the early 1970s, he rose through the ranks of dozens of boys in the troop to become the troop scribe. His parent’s picked Boland’s troop because of its great reputation: It was headed by a successful businessman and civic leader. At one point, a troop of his was profiled in Boy’s Life magazine and he ushered dozens of scouts to the Eagle Scout designation.
“He was a big man, not fat, just a big man, and he was hugging all the boys,” Alan remembers.
No one there seemed to know that Boland had left the scouts before under the suspicion of child molestation and allegedly forcing another scout, possibly multiple scouts, to perform sex acts. Alan just remembers being 12 years old and uncomfortable around the big man who insisted upon being called by his first name.
After being named scribe, Alan was told by Boland that they had some official Boy Scout business and the man picked him up from middle school. At Boland’s home, the boy sat on the couch, the man in a chair. Boland joined him on the couch and was strangely playful and affectionate, Alan remembers. He remembers the smell of the man’s aftershave when Boland first kissed him. He remembers Boland suggesting they get more comfortable before leading him into the bedroom.
“I remember that first car ride home,” Alan said. “I tried to push myself as far away from him as possible. If I could have crawled inside of that door, I would have crawled inside that door. I just didn’t want him to be able to touch me.”
Every time the man raped him, Alan remembers Boland telling him to go sleep with girls, only with more vulgar language. Boland told him that at least once a week, if not more, Alan said. He was still in middle school then.
From there, Alan said he mostly remembers specific incidents; the rest blurs together.
In another early incident, Alan saw Boland’s big, dull-gold Lincoln Towncar parked out front of his school and felt the need to escape. He snuck out another school entrance and got on a school bus instead of the passenger seat of the man’s car.
At this point in the story, the now-grown Alan looks toward the sky with clear emotions washing over him with the memory: Relief. Joy. Happiness.
Alan continues his story, pardoning interruptions, putting up with tangents in the conversation. His mind still focused elsewhere; still focused on when he got home from his sojourn on the school bus and when he saw Boland’s car in his parent’s driveway. Boland was drinking tea in the kitchen with his parents. Alan was ushered off with the man they thought to be his scoutmaster and nothing more.
“What was I going to say? ‘I don’t want to have sex today?’” the grown Alan said.
It was then, Alan recalled, that he felt his voice, his control of the situation, robbed. He was just an object for Boland’s use.
After that, after losing his power, he felt he had to go with Boland. At one point, they were driving down Broad Street. At Holman Avenue, the man told the boy that if he was good, “I’ll take you someplace special. A place I have set up for my art.”
They turned south on Milledge Avenue. They stopped at a long-term motel and apartment. Inside was a tiny easel, a small canvas, and no paint.
“It was at that point that I thought there were others,” he said.
According to an internal investigation by the Boy Scouts of America that led to Boland’s banning from the organization in 1977, a distraught father said his son, and up to a dozen others, had been Boland’s victims since the early 1960s. The investigator wrote that a local church pastor also knew about the apartment.
For Alan, the suspicion of not being the only boy was confirmed his freshman year of high school. He saw Boland’s car waiting outside. He walked up to it. He remembers Boland saying curtly, “I’m not here for you today.”
Alan doesn’t remember how old he was then. Maybe 14. He had been with Boland long enough at that point to feel something.
“It was a very weird type of emotion,” he said.
Alan said Boland would tell him that the moment he wanted to end it, all Alan needed do was say so. The boy wrestled with it for weeks until he finally told the man, no, he didn’t want to keep doing this. Like that, it seemed to end.
“I thought, ‘If it was this easy I would have done this a long time ago,’” Alan said.
But then Boland would come around again, usually at the school, and be back in Alan’s life. No prior announcement and seemingly no choice but for the boy to go with the man.
Eventually, Boland’s ploy turned to money. Boland told Alan that he knew how the boy could make some extra money. He left out the specifics, Alan said. After they had sex, the man left cash on the bed.
With uneasy inflections, Alan said, “I was a 14-year-old prostitute, I guess.”
It wasn’t until Alan, about 15, was at Boland’s company through a high school work study program that it ended. Boland’s wife took over, saying that she wanted to straighten the place up. One day, she summoned Alan to Boland’s office. Before that, he knew them as a couple that constantly fought. Boland frequently threw obscenities at her, Alan remembers.
Alan went up to the office.
“She doesn’t want you around anymore,” Boland told him. “I’ve got to let you go.”
Alan went home and bawled.
That was 35 years ago and the last time Alan McArthur saw Ernest Boland. He returned to Athens about seven years ago and started his business with a friend. He frequently worried about running into Boland somewhere: the post office, the grocery store, some community event. He saw Boland’s wife once and had to fight to avoid going up to her and asking, “Do you know who I am?” He learned that the man from his youth had become relegated to a wheelchair and gained some relief from it, figuring Boland couldn’t be a danger to other children. But when he learned Boland died Feb. 7, there was a feeling of frustration that the man died having the last word.
It was a theme in their time together, Alan said. The man never gave credence to his voice, making it harder to come forward with his story. After all, if he had gone so long as a youth without his voice carrying any weight, why would anyone bother to listen afterward?
After having some time to digest the death of the man who had such a tremendous influence on his life, Alan seemed to cement his prior feelings: Boland, he said, is a man who did what he did to an untold number of boys and without ever facing any meaningful legal recourse.
“He’ll never be held accountable,” Alan said. “The only place he was going to be tried was the court of public opinion. But now, the question is, what will his legacy be?”
Alan said he always knew he was gay, even before his time with Boland. It wasn’t until he was 25 years old and in therapy for depression that Alan realized that what happened to him as a young man was more than just being sexually active at a young age.
“I had already aged out (of the statute of limitations) and I didn’t know I had been sexually abused,” Alan said. “I never thought it was wrong or illegal or nothing like that. I thought it was something that had happened to me.”
After years of counseling, he told his parents what happened to him as a teen. What had happened decades earlier was far beyond Georgia’s statutes of limitations. Because of that limitation, Alan thought there wasn’t anything more he could do to find justice.
For 35 years he wrestled with demons that smelled of aftershave and drove a Towncar. Now, he wants to cast those into the light. He wants to be a voice for the abused, an advocate to show people, yes, they were victimized, but they don’t need to live as victims or keep their stories hidden.
But most importantly, he wants to do whatever he can to prevent child sexual abuse.
“I’m not embarrassed,” he said. “I’m not ashamed. The thing is, I’m pissed about it. I’m mad. I was failed.”
He joined the Boy Scouts expecting a certain level of protection. He received a scoutmaster who was long suspected of raping young boys, but who had at that point not had a police report filed against him or even been blacklisted from the Scouts.
“If they had filed a police report, I never would have met that man,” Alan said. “The other boys never would have met that man.”
He acknowledges even if he hadn’t died, Boland wouldn’t see his day in court. Though the statute of limitations was eliminated from crimes committed after July 1, 2012, crimes committed before that must be reported within seven years of the victim turning 16 or the last time the crime happened.
That didn’t stop Alan from joining with another victim a few weeks before Boland’s death and filing a police report stating the abuse, just so there would be a paper trail against the man. And it doesn’t stop him from hoping Georgia legislators pass a law similar to what Hawaii did in 2012 that gave victims of childhood sexual abuse a two-year window in which they could file suit against their abuser, no matter how long ago the abuse took place, so they might find the justice denied him.
“Why are these laws protecting the abuser?” he asked. “Lawmakers need to ask their conscience.”
It’s one of many signs that point to how the culture has changed in the past 35 years, Alan said. There are advocates for victims of child sexual abuse and the subject is not as taboo as in the past.
“I feel we are called on in this life to do something,” he said. “I want to be a voice for those other men.”