Don't Ask, Don't Tell

For 40 years, the Episcopal Church of Texas turned a blind eye to a priest who was sexually molesting male students.

After some heated debate, the Diocesan Council and the trustees agreed to integrate the school within five years. Becker told Focus on St. Stephen's, "My wife Elizabeth and I decided we could live with it, but we didn't like it."

Two years into that timetable, Becker submitted a resolution to the trustees: "Because this is a Christian institution of education, laboring under both the high privileges and clear responsibilities of our vocation, be it resolved that this school will admit any duly qualified student."

Although his insistence on integration was no doubt a headache for the more conservative faction of the school and diocese at the time, Becker is now recognized as a pioneer who helped drag the school into enlightenment. Which is one more reason why, as will soon be explained, the way he handled the Jim Tucker situation is simply heartbreaking.

David Evert, pictured around 1968, says he and others told Becker about the abuse so it wouldn't happen to younger students.
Courtesy David Evert
David Evert, pictured around 1968, says he and others told Becker about the abuse so it wouldn't happen to younger students.

Even before David Evert started classes at St. Stephen's in 1967, he knew from his older brother that Tucker was someone special.

"He had a reputation already in my mind from my brother, because my brother had such a good relationship with him," Evert tells the Press from his home in Monterey, California.

Evert grew up in Spring Branch, where his family attended St. Christopher's Episcopal Church. He felt fortunate to be able to join St. Stephen's in his sophomore year; he looked up to his older brother, and he was glad to follow in his footsteps.

It didn't take long before Evert saw firsthand what his brother was talking about. Tucker was someone he and all the students could trust. He was so open and caring, it seemed like you could talk to him about anything. He would come to your room at night, after lights-out, and just talk. It was important to have someone like that when you were away from your family. So Evert was ecstatic when he was one of the boys Tucker picked for an upcoming trip to Africa. Tucker had been a missionary there before he started at St. Stephen's, and he wanted to show the boys all the good that could be done over there.

Evert's room became the center of attention one night, because Tucker had walked in, sat on the edge of his bed and started in on one of his Africa stories. Word got out, and other boys trickled into the room. They sat there in the black and listened to stories of that exotic land.

That's when, Evert says, he felt Tucker's hand under the covers. Then he felt Tucker's fingers wrap around his penis. Tucker masturbated Evert until he ejaculated in his hand.

"He does all this and doesn't even break stride with his story," Evert says.

Then Tucker grabbed Evert's hand. The priest wanted the boy to reciprocate. But Evert pulled away, and after a moment, Tucker left.

"He leaves the room, and I'm a different person now," Evert says.

For the next two or three weeks, Evert went through the motions of campus life in a daze. He felt like he was on another planet. His thoughts were a sickening mixture of shame, embarrassment and disbelief. He'd constantly ask himself why he let it happen. Sitting in church, listening to Tucker preach, Evert felt like he was going insane. He needed to quiet his brain.

So he went to the campus store and bought a bottle of Dramamine. He swallowed 18.

"I can't say rationally whether that was a suicide attempt," Evert says. "...I'm afraid to think about it, actually."

Whatever he thought he was doing, it didn't work. When he came to, he was still on that other planet. Finally, one night, after lights-out, feeling like he was going to crumble, he walked into a friend's room, where three boys were having a bull session, and he just blurted it out. He didn't even know if anyone would believe him — how could they? — but he had to get it off his chest.

That's when the boy who would go on to become the third plaintiff in the lawsuit spoke up. He asked to be identified for this story as "Don."

"I sat there for a moment — you can imagine your embarrassment, right?" Don tells the Press. "But I couldn't leave my friend out there to hang in the wind, because he was really distraught...and so I said, 'Yeah, it happened to me.' And it kind of took a burden off of you, too, at the same time, because you wanted to tell people, but you didn't want to tell people, because who's going to believe you?"

Don had started St. Stephen's in eighth grade, and eventually he, too, became Tucker's prey. And like Evert, he had been trying to lock it all away, trying to find a vault in his brain where he could seal away this horrible thing forever.

As soon as Evert and Don realized they hadn't been the only ones, they felt so much stronger. Some of that self-doubt evaporated, and now, sitting there in the dark, they realized that other students' well-being could be at stake. They were especially worried about the eighth and ninth graders, the new batch of boys being groomed at the canteen.

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