From Magic City Morning Star|
ROCKLAND -- On Tuesday, January 16th, Michael Heath, the director of the Christian Civic League received an interesting letter. The author, Adam E. Flanders, of Belfast, Maine, is a former leader of "Out As I Want To Be" (OUT), a gay youth organization, until recently headquartered at 501 Main Street in Rockland, Maine.
In his letter to Heath, Flanders alleges many instances of inappropriateness and several specific crimes having been committed by members of the organization, chief among them being sexual activity between adult advisors and youth members of the organization, and between youth members and other adults in the community.
The organization was a rebirth of "Outright," a non-profit organization, based in Rockland, Maine, for support, affirmation, and advocacy of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. With the closure of the Coast AIDS Network, the organization lost its primary source of funds, and regrouped as "Out As I Want To Be," which consisted of several youth members and a few adult advisors.
Members of OUT were gay, and they were young. Those who were 18 years-old or older served as adult leaders or advisors to the organization.
Flanders suggests that he is speaking not only from his own experience, but for others who wish to remain anonymous, but who were also victims of abuse and emotional distress brought on by adult advisors and others outside of the organization.
Flanders, who graduated from high school last year, was a youth member and, later, a leader of the organization. In October of 2005, he testified before the state legislature against the repeal of gay rights legislation and, that same month, the Kennebec Journal published a story that highlighted some of the abuse that he received for being openly gay in high school.
If the allegations that he has made in his letter are true, he and others even younger than himself would receive but another form of abuse from the adults he turned to within the Rockland gay advocacy group. He also admits to questionable activity on his own part, as an 18 year-old engaging in sexual activity with more than one 14 year-old boy.
Even more alarming, if his words are true, is the fact that several of the adult advisors were aware of it and did nothing, except to facilitate it.
While a member of the organization, Flanders would spend each Friday night at OUT's public offices at Lincoln Street Center in Rockland. While there, he and his 14 year-old boyfriend would have sex in the restrooms located in the lower portion of the building. He was 18 years-old at the time, and his boyfriend's father understandably disapproved of their relationship. Yet, even after the younger boy's parents obtained a restraining order barring them from contact, Flanders says that adult advisors of the organizations allowed it to continue and even facilitated the boy's lies.
The parents of another 14 year-old boy were led to believe that the youth was attending art classes while he was actually at the organization's offices.
Flanders says that others used the restrooms for the same purpose as did he and his friend, and he feels confident that the adult advisors were aware of it. He attributes the lack of chaperoning to a feeling among the adult advisors that the organization should be youth-driven.
"At least two-thirds of our group smoked avidly," he writes, yet the adult leaders not only allowed it, but gave cigarettes and lights to the children who smoked.
Flanders also alleges that adult leaders would drink, sometimes to the point of intoxication, at OUT barbecues and other social events, which often led to inappropriate behavior.
He recalls a victory party celebrating the defeat of the People's Veto of gay rights legislation.
"Many of the leaders were completely drunk, and our advisors, wanting to join the celebration, made the choice to simply bring along OUT youth members," he writes. The celebration was held at a private residence in Thomaston.
"I remember being touched and even groped by one of the older men there," he continues, "and I heard that other youth had similar experiences. OUT advisors were also getting drunk and flirting with youth members."
This wasn't the only time that such events occurred. Flanders writes of a weekly event attended primarily by gay and lesbian adults over the age of 40, but which youth members of OUT were invited to, in which he and other youth members were "hit on" by some of the adults. "I cannot possibly imagine that our advisors were oblivious to this fact," he concludes.
He also tells of a night that he spent at the home of one of the adult advisors, a man in his thirties. Flanders writes that he had sex with the man's 14 year-old nephew that night, then awoke to find the nephew showering with his uncle the next morning, both of them fully unclothed.
The organization's former president would tell "affectionate stories" from Greek literature, about young boys having sexual relations with men, and would put a positive spin on the subject of pedophilia. According to Flanders, this form of sexual abuse became a common part of OUT, its advisors and youth members, "almost like a mutual joke shared by everyone but making many if not most of the youth very uncomfortable and distressed."
Of particular concern to Flanders was that once the organization closed its public offices, meetings were held three times a week at a private residence where the youth felt even more vulnerable.
In other correspondence, Flanders says that OUT members were responsible for stealing and/or destroying several "Yes on 1" signs during the campaign period leading up to the vote on the People's Veto of the governor's gay rights legislation, and he states that several of the organization's adult advisors encouraged this illegal activity.
We have reviewed the Augusta Police Department report, and verified that the Augusta P.D. picked the letter up at the Christian Civic League offices Thursday afternoon, and copies were forwarded to the Rockland Police Department and the State Attorney General's Office. The matter is under investigation at this time.
While we have opted against identifying any of the people named in the correspondence, Flanders does give names, and they include several people prominent in Knox County society. The letter, in six parts, can be downloaded in .pdf format, and read in its entirety, as well as photo images of the preliminary report filed by the Augusta Police Department.
We make no judgment as to the accuracy of any of the allegations made by Adam Flanders, as the allegations are still under investigation.
Attempts were made to contact most, if not all, of the adult leaders mentioned in Flanders' letter, but only one has responded to our requests. Speaking as the "sole spokesperson" for "Out As I Want To Be," J.P. Fecteau, the current president of the gay youth organization, describes Mr. Flanders as a "disgruntled former member of OUT," and states that he (Flanders) had been banned from the organization because of threats that he had made against other members and their families.
"He is extremely angry with us," writes Fecteau, "and the result is the letter filled with false accusations."
Fecteau insists that the organization has strict policies in place to prevent the situations that Flanders claims to have occurred, and promises that an independent investigation into the accusations is underway.
"We believe this investigation will prove the accusations to be unfounded and false," he concludes.
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