FRYE ISLAND – Police on Frye Island and in Gorham said Thursday that they’re looking for more potential victims of an alleged sexual abuser, but they continued to withhold a key piece of information about the suspect: the identity of the youth group for which he apparently volunteered for five years.
Michael Emerson, 48, of Gorham was arrested last week and charged with unlawful sexual contact with two children younger than 12.
He was released on bail but was arrested again Tuesday after another alleged victim came forward.
Emerson remains in the Cumberland County Jail in lieu of bail of $25,000 cash or $100,000 property.
Frye Island Police Chief Rod Beaulieu said none of the children involved was connected to Emerson through the youth group for which he volunteered from 2005 to 2010 or a group where he applied to be a volunteer last year.
Because of that, and because Beaulieu said the two groups have a reputation for protecting children, the chief said he doesn’t want to name the organizations.
“I’m confident parents can connect the dots,” he said, and determine whether they should ask their children whether they had any inappropriate contact with Emerson. “He’s shown an interest in youth groups. If we were in a real large community with dozens and dozens of good clubs and organizations for kids, I can see that (not identifying the organizations) would be a problem.”
But the head of a group that advocates for victims of sexual abuse said that if authorities want to determine whether there are more potential victims, they should give the public as much information as possible.
“It’s their responsibility to tell parents as much as they know,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. “It’s very common for kids who are abused to not tell anyone, and it’s only when others come forward that the truth comes out.” Providing plenty of information helps parents determine whether they should talk to their children about the behavior of adults involved in youth activities, Berkowitz said.
When information about an alleged abuser’s involvement with children is withheld, parents don’t know whether that difficult conversation is warranted, he said. “It’s the equivalent of arresting a teacher (for abuse) and not telling parents which school he taught at,” Berkowitz said. “You’re making it more likely that we’ll never find out.”
The Girl Scouts of Maine confirmed this week that Emerson applied last year to be a volunteer with that group, although he never followed up with the required training and never did any work with the Girl Scouts.
On Frye Island, where Emerson has a camp, Beaulieu said his department learned of Emerson’s apparent volunteer work with a youth group from an application he filled out to volunteer with another organization.
Beaulieu refused to confirm that the information came from the Girl Scouts application. He said only that the application indicated Emerson had volunteered with a group that worked “with the opposite gender.”
Eric Tarbox, scout executive with the Boy Scouts of America’s Pine Tree Council, said Thursday that Emerson registered to be a merit badge counselor with the Boy Scouts in Portland in 2005 but records show he didn’t indicate a specialty in which he would help boys earn merit badges, never took any training and apparently never participated in any scouting activities.
The registration lapsed after a year, Tarbox said.
“To the best of our knowledge, these accusations have nothing to do with Scouting, but the behavior included in these allegations runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands,” Tarbox said in an email. “Based on these accusations this individual will be permanently banned from the Scouting program.”
Tarbox said the Boy Scouts plan to check other records to determine whether Emerson had any additional connection with the group.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: