By Jake Goldstein-Street
EVERETT — Nicholas Baker’s grandmother thought the boy and his older brother needed some structure in their lives.
So she signed the older boy up for the Boy Scouts.
His troop leader, Garth Snively, was presented as someone who would be a father figure for the brothers, teach them how to build campfires and guide them.
Baker, who was 5, knew him as Mr. Snively.
The sexual abuse began immediately, Baker recalled. Snively would rationalize his actions as medicinal or educational.
In 1993, Snively pleaded guilty to molesting other children around the same time as Baker. He was sentenced to over 10 years in prison, and he later disclosed abusing dozens of other boys.
Baker, who says the abuse has haunted him for nearly 30 years, is now suing the national Boy Scouts of America and the Everett-based Mount Baker Council for allowing Snively to lead while molesting scouts. The lawsuit was filed last week in Snohomish County Superior Court.
One of his lawyers said Snively wouldn’t have had access to children if the scouts hadn’t let him in.
“I hold everyone within that structure accountable,” Baker told The Daily Herald. “I’m hoping that the organization and others like it will be dismantled, and I’m hoping that any future organizations or any person … will think twice before abusing people that have no power or have no say.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America called Snively’s alleged actions “reprehensible” and “opposed to” what the organization stands for. It also called youth safety a top priority.
“Consistent with our commitment to protecting Scouts and upholding our values as an organization, the BSA strongly supports efforts to ensure that anyone who commits sexual abuse is held accountable,” the statement reads.
The Boy Scouts have made reforms they say better protect children, including a thorough screening process for troop leaders.
Snively is one of thousands of authority figures in the Boy Scouts alleged to have sexually abused children. In Everett, another lawsuit was settled in 2019 stemming from multiple volunteers’ abuse of a teen years before Baker.
Most local cases like Baker’s get settled before trial. On average, it takes a year and a half to get there, said Seattle-based attorney Michael Pfau, whose firm represents Baker and many others.
Nationwide, more than 82,000 sexual abuse claims have been filed in a federal bankruptcy case, he said. The reorganization plan for the national organization would allot $2.7 billion for victims, with that money coming from the BSA, local councils and insurance companies.
“The breadth of the abuse in the Boy Scouts is really staggering,” Pfau said.
Closing arguments in that case were held Wednesday, with a federal judge’s decision on the settlement plan coming in the next couple months. The amount each victim could receive would vary.
‘Power in discussing it’
The timeline is a bit murky for Baker, but he remembers Snively’s abuse over at least three weekends in the early 1990s.
But Baker will never forget the house next to Evergreen Lanes.
Almost 30 years ago, Baker remembers, Snively would pick up the boy and his brother from his grandmother’s a few miles away. Snively would drive to that home next to the bowling alley.
That’s where the abuse took place, Baker said.
When Baker’s family would go bowling later, he couldn’t help but think about what happened next door.
Last year, Baker moved to Austin, Texas, for a “fresh start.” He doesn’t have to drive by the bowling alley anymore.
He bounces around jobs. At the moment, he’s a server at a restaurant.
What Snively did to Baker as a small child has deeply affected his life. He doesn’t like to be touched, finds it hard to trust anyone and has issues with authority, all of which he attributes to the abuse. He feels anyone with power will lead him down the wrong path.
Baker figures his life could be better if he could toe the line, but he can’t. He feels the need to rebel.
“I’ve been fired from so many jobs,” he said. “I’ve been outcasted, marginalized, you name it.”
He lost a recent serving job because he couldn’t handle working under his boss.
“Essentially, I spit in his face,” Baker said.
Baker felt defenseless for so many years. For a long time, he’d hear about the Boy Scouts and felt like he couldn’t say anything. He tried to talk about what happened once in drug and alcohol treatment, but it didn’t go well.
“I pretty much got laughed at,” Baker remembered.
It was only when he talked with people in local “trap houses” who had similar experiences that he no longer felt alone. Some would use drugs to dampen the pain, he said. Others used them “to find the courage to discuss it.”
“I’ve found that there’s power in discussing it,” Baker said. “Not only did they take advantage of me, but also silencing me throughout my life.”
Now he feels he can stand up.
“It’s taking the power back.”
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse offers services and support at 425-297-5771. There also is a 24-hour crisis line: 425-252-4800. More info: washington.providence.org/hospitals/regional-medical-center/services/assault-abuse.