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Childhood sexual assault survivor speaks out after Northern Colorado teacher and Boy Scout leader sentenced to prison

Childhood sexual assault survivor speaks out after northern Colorado teacher sentenced
Childhood sexual assault survivor speaks out after northern Colorado teacher sentenced 02:18

In a sit-down interview with CBS News Colorado's Dillon Thomas just moments after his abuser was taken to prison, the man who first spoke out about his experiences with Robert Denise said he felt closure for the first time in decades. 

The victim, a man who was assaulted when he was just a boy, first contacted the Larimer County Sheriff's Office in 2023, nearly 20 years after Denise sexually abused him.

The victim spoke with CBS News Colorado under anonymity given his age at the time of the crimes. He agreed to speak with Thomas in the hope of not only bringing more to light of what he went through but also in hope of encouraging others who have been abused or exploited to have confidence in their ability to speak up.

The man, who in court was simply identified as 'Victim No. 1," said he felt the calling to report his abuse after seeking therapy for other matters in his life.

CBS/Larimer County Sheriff's Office

"I was at a point in my life where I was struggling, going through some stuff and started therapy. I was encouraged by my therapist to bring closure to this. To bring closure to a situation that played a big role in my life," the man said.

The man said he reached out to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office to share his story in 2023, met with investigators, and ultimately trusted them to handle the situation as they felt necessary.

"When I reported it, I was pretty at peace with whatever the outcome was. I knew I had done my part. When I reported it I felt a lot of confidence with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office," the man said.

However, what the man didn't expect was to learn he was not alone.

After the man spoke with investigators the team that oversees media relations reached out to reporters like Thomas to say they were looking into Denise and allegations of sexual abuse. 

Thomas and CBS News Colorado published reports online and on television asking others who may have been victims to also come forward.

LCSO also published similar information on their website and social media pages which all culminated in at least four other men coming forward saying they had either been sexually assaulted or raped by Denise as children.

"There was a lot of sadness when more people came forward," the man said of when he learned he wasn't the only one who had gone through the trauma.

Denise confessed to sexually assaulting or raping the boys that came forward. Some were sexually abused at Poudre School District's Cache La Poudre Middle School. Others were sexually abused at Denise's home. Some reported being raped or abused at Ben Delatour Boy Scout Campy in western Larimer County.

Denise confessed that the stories the men were sharing were true.

For nearly 20 years the man said he tried to suppress his experiences as a child, noting at one point he considered Denise a role model. However, he said he realized Denise exploited their relationship as a mentor and child.


"I put it away and tried to not think about it a whole lot. I didn't recognize how it affected me my whole life," the man said.

Many of the details of the assaults and rapes were very graphic and not suitable for broadcast. However, Thomas filed this report the day Denise was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his actions

Though recounting their assaults was traumatic for the victims, many of which cried while addressing the court, the man said it was important to make sure Denise heard how he impacted their lives negatively.

"It was important for Mr. Denise to hear it," the man said. "It was important for him to know that I wasn't going to let him to continue to be a part of my life. This was closure and I can move on."

CBS News Colorado reached out to the Boy Scouts seeking interview or comment for this, and previous, reports. However, the organization has not returned requests for comment on Denise or the crimes he committed at their camp.

CBS News Colorado also contacted the Poudre School District requesting an interview on the reports filed. PSD declined to interview but issued a statement that read as follows:

"Mr. Denise was placed on leave as soon as PSD was informed of the report to LCSO and resulting investigation into abuse that occurred in the early 2000s. Since that date, he has not been – and will never again be – allowed to work with our students."

"Victim No. 1" accused the district of not taking the crimes Denise committed at their schools seriously. He also pointed out that the district allowed Denise to retire two months before he was sentenced to prison for the assaults, well after they first learned of the crimes he was accused of.

"I am very disappointed in Poudre School District. They let him retire and had other teachers that did not do their role," the man said.

Even after confessing to a judge that he had assaulted and raped several boys, some of Denise's coworkers and former students argued he was a good person who should not have been harshly punished for what he did.


Some former educators told the court Denise was a good man and even better educator who positively impacted the lives of students he interacted with.

The victim Thomas spoke with said his children will soon be old enough to begin school within PSD. He said he was worried the district was failing to take complete ownership of their handling of Denise's case.

However, by courageously sharing his story with CBS News Colorado, the man said he hoped to inspire other victims of sexual abuse to come forward.

"I hope that, if other people have these types of situations, they will come forward and be honest about this stuff," the man said.

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