Jim Lloyd said he was raped for almost five years.
“I'd say it probably happened over 300 times, and that might not be enough,” Lloyd said, sitting back in a rocking chair in the Flowery Branch home where he lives with his cousin.
Lloyd, now 64, was a Boy Scout in Gainesville’s Troop 26, sponsored by First Baptist Church on Green Street. Lloyd said R. Fleming Weaver Jr., a former deacon at the church and a longtime scoutmaster, took advantage of him and myriad other Scouts in the tents on camping trips and in the Scout cabins on the church’s property.
“If it wasn't for my sense of humor, and my laughter, I would have been gone a long time ago,” Lloyd said. “That's the only wall I have between me and a very dark place that if I go to again, I won't make it back.”
With the news of the Boy Scouts of America’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Lloyd is happy to see there will be some sort of repayment made to all the victims of sexual abuse who have suffered at the hands of the Boy Scouts’ alleged negligence.
Though this may be the beginning for some Scouts, Lloyd said it was over for him as soon as those who covered up the abuse admitted what they had done.
Vindication is a word that rolls off his tongue effortlessly.
“I didn't get in this to sue anybody,” Lloyd said. “I wanted to get in it to prove what I was saying, to be vindicated. I didn't want to sue anybody.”
Lloyd was part of a lawsuit filed in Cobb County along with two others in 2017, though the plaintiffs’ attorneys voluntarily filed to dismiss the case in October 2019. Lloyd said it was dismissed with the hope of refiling after the bankruptcy.
He said his abuse began in 1971, when he was 14 years old. And in 1974, Lloyd said he began to tell people he thought he could trust — people he thought would believe him. What he found was most people either didn’t believe him or didn’t want to do anything about it.
Even after telling “the people I loved and I thought cared about me,” Lloyd said he was still sexually abused on monthly camping trips with the Boy Scouts.
“It continued and I went to other people that were important,” Lloyd said. “I told my mom and dad about it, and they didn't believe me.”
Looking back, Lloyd understands why they didn’t believe him. He said, “It was a different time.”
Though many people knew about the abuse, no one talked too openly about it, especially with adults.
“Growing up, dating guys in Scouts, we heard the stories that something was going on,” said Catherine Martin, Lloyd’s cousin. “The guys would tell us that he had done something, but they never told us the full extent. But we knew it.”
She said they had nicknames for Weaver, and it almost became somewhat of a joke when the Scouts were going on trips.
“Don’t get caught with him in the woods,” she recalled. “Zip up your tent.”
When Lloyd turned 18, left the Scouts after rising to the rank of Eagle Scout and began working for the Gainesville Police Department, it all stopped for him. But he knew it was continuing with other Scouts.
And that’s why he was so vocal about it over the years, telling as many people as he could about what had happened. He didn’t want to see it continue.
“I went to every official I knew of in the church,” Lloyd said. “I was going to people that were 40, 50, 60 years old that I thought had enough authority or enough lead in their britches to do something about it.”
Lloyd said nothing was done. That is until 1994 when Weaver was investigated by the Hall County District Attorney’s Office. And then in a 1995 interview with law enforcement, the year he resigned, Weaver admitted he had “sexually abused five victims during the time they were in his Scout troop” between 1971 and 1981.
The district attorney at the time, Lydia Sartain, said the statute of limitations on those acts had elapsed, preventing criminal charges.
That could all change now.
In early January, a team of lawyers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to establish the nation’s capital as a venue for men across the U.S. to sue the Boy Scouts of America for allegedly failing to protect them from long-ago sexual abuse at the hands of scoutmasters and other leaders.
The eight plaintiffs in the potentially ground-breaking lawsuit, identified as John Does 1 through 8, live in states like Georgia where statute of limitations laws would prevent them from suing the Boy Scouts based on claims of sex abuse that occurred decades ago.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers say federal court in Washington is an appropriate venue for the lawsuit because the Boy Scouts were incorporated there in 1910 and obtained a congressional charter in 1916.
The lawsuit contends that the Boy Scouts of America has known since its early years that it attracted pedophiles into its ranks of adult leaders, yet avoided public acknowledgement of the dangers for decades even as it kept secret files of men known or suspected of committing sex abuse.
“It’s astonishing what people were going through when I was going through it,” Lloyd said. “At the time, I thought it was just happening to me. I didn't know. You suffer in silence, because who's going to get together on a Saturday night and talk about being abused? That don't come up.”
Without specifying any dollar figures, the lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for physical and emotional injuries, as well as punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
“They could give me $1 million a day and that wouldn't bring back what I lost or what I should have had,” Lloyd said, though he admitted he’d happily accept whatever money he’s entitled to. “A lot of me over the last 40 years has went with all this stuff. And I'm going to be honest, there's times that have come up where I'm not sure how much of me I've got left.”
Through it all, though he said he has been vindicated, the “40-something years of not being believed, going through hell, being alone,” have weighed on him.
“When someone goes through something like that, it takes away your innocence,” Lloyd said. “It takes away your pride, it takes aways your motivation, your self-worth.”
They could give me $1 million a day and that wouldn't bring back what I lost or what I should have had.Jim Lloyd
Lloyd and Martin were close as they grew up. They lived just down the road from each other and Martin remembers her older cousin being the “woolly mammoth football hero” she bragged about to friends.
“He lost a piece of himself for a while,” Martin said. “I watched him change because, duh, how do you not?”
Lloyd feels some sense of pride now, though, with the Boy Scouts urging victims just like himself to come forward after the organization filed for bankruptcy protection. The filing was an effort to create a huge compensation fund for potentially thousands of men.
“Now, the whole world is seeing that I told the truth from the beginning,” Lloyd said. “When I'm sitting here, seeing this go across the country like it is, I feel pretty damn good. ... If I helped one person somewhere, that's worth all this. And I hope I have.”
And even though the national organization filed for bankruptcy, it shouldn’t trickle down to the local troops.
“In short, we won’t be affected,” said Trip Selman, Scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America Northeast Georgia Council. “It’s a national filing that only impacts that organization. Councils are an entirely separate entity from the national office, so it’s their filing. Our council has not filed.”
The camps, properties and contributions in the area are all controlled by the Northeast Georgia Council. Meetings, activities, district and council events, other Scouting adventures and countless service projects are taking place as usual, Selman said.
“There should be no change to the local Scouting experience,” he added.
And that’s good news to Lloyd. While his time in Scouting was the worst experience of his life, he doesn’t want to see the Boy Scouts of America “destroyed.” He doesn’t want to see it fall apart but does want it to be held accountable.
“I just want them to pay for what they've done, and then move on,” Lloyd said. “Take care of this situation. That’s all I want.”
Times reporter Nick Watson and The Associated Press contributed to this article.