Untying Knots of the Past

Former Boy Scout Wins Settlement

MOLESTED SCOUT: Tayln Lang, now 38, couldn’t understand why he kept losing job after job, year after year. Finally, determined to get to the root of the problem, “I took a long, hard look at my life and realized that it was due to a loss of self-worth,” the result of being molested by a Boy Scout leader, Lang told me Monday.

Barney Brantingham

The sexual abuse he suffered from the age of 13 to 16, and its psychological effects, were inflicted by “a controlling, domineering, dominating” man with a wife and four children, Lang told me. Lang has just won a confidential settlement from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and the Mormon church, which sponsored Troop 275 in Oxnard.

The settlement not only brought a measure of closure and healing, Lang said, “but the most important thing is to ensure that this doesn’t happen to any other young man and is brought to light.” According to his lawsuit, filed in 2010, he was molested by Mark Gum, first in Oxnard and later in Butte County. Although Gum is named in the suit, his whereabouts are unknown, according to Santa Barbara attorney Tim Hale, who filed the suit.

Gum, according to the suit, took advantage of the fact that Lang was vulnerable because of his unhappy home life in a dysfunctional family and created “an overwhelming emotional dependency that rendered plaintiff desperate for the perpetrator’s attention, approval, and affection.” Gum “made plaintiff his sex toy,” according to the suit. The Scouts and the Mormon church (also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS) knew or should have known that Gum presented a risk, the suit said.

Tayln Lang
Courtesy Photo

When Lang was about 16 and living with Gum’s family, “unable to take the abuse any longer, plaintiff told the perpetrator it had to stop, causing the perpetrator to fly into a rage and pin the much smaller boy to the ground,” according to the suit. “When he finally let plaintiff up, the boy ran outside, only to see the perpetrator point a gun at him.” Lang said he fled, returning for his belongings with his football friends.

Gum “was a member of the LDS Church who became an agent and volunteer of the Boy Scouts as a direct result of his status in the hierarchy of the LDS Church,” which actively promotes scouting, according to the suit. “The Boy Scouts and the LDS Church thus were and are legally responsible for his criminal acts while he was acting as an agent of the Boy Scouts and/or the LDS Church.”

Criminal charges could not be brought against Gum because of the statute of limitations, which Lang believes should be revised: In many cases victims do not come forward for years due to fear, shame, and other factors. Lang has been married but is now divorced, living in Montana. He said, “My life now is great ​— ​happy, healthy, and more productive.”

Asked to comment, Deron Smith, BSA national public relations director, replied: “The Boy Scouts of America believes that one instance of abuse is far too many. We regret there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims. In the nearly 30 years since these events took place, the BSA has continuously enhanced its multi-tiered policies and procedures, which now include background checks, comprehensive training programs, and safety policies ​— ​like requiring all members to report even suspicion of abuse directly to local law enforcement.” (In the Lang case, BSA apparently did not report suspected abuse to authorities, according to attorney Hale.)

SCOUT APPEAL: Meanwhile, a decision is awaited on the Boy Scouts of America appeal of a Santa Barbara court decision ordering Scouts to turn over so-called “perversion files,” regarding suspected sexual activity, back to 1991. The case involves a Santa Barbara family suing the Scouts because a volunteer molested their 13-year-old son at a 2007 Christmas tree sale. The volunteer pleaded no contest to charges and later served a prison term. In that case, the top local Scout official attempted to talk the parent out of reporting it to authorities, according to the suit.

Bell, Book & Candle: Gillian Holroyd is a witch, a pretty one, and that of course means she can’t fall in love. If she does, she loses all those magical powers. But then girl meets boy, and the results can be seen in the amusing play Bell, Book & Candle, currently onstage at the Ensemble Theatre. I found Mattie Hawkinson


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