BALTIMORE, Md. - It’s easy to pick David Bascome out of the crowd.
He’s the energetic, enthusiastic, always positive assistant coach of the Baltimore Blast with the bushy ponytail. His 17-year professional playing career was filled with flare. Soccer has always been at the forefront of his life. He describes it a “a beautiful game”.
But inside, David Bascome always concealed a dark secret. He was sexually abused when he was a teenager.
“It started around 11 (years old) when we’re dealing with a sexual abuse,” said Bascome. “Groped and everything. It’s kind of like you’re shocked.”
Bascome grew up on the island of Bermuda spending his younger years at an orphanage after his parents divorced.
“You had to wake up winning. You had to wake up wanting more because you were independent. You were on your own,” said Bascome.
All he had was the game and he was great at it, one of the best players in Bermuda. And one of its most tortured.
“On Fridays, Saturdays we would travel to go play ball. We would travel to go play at youth centers, so it was a big thing. So when we would go down to one end of the island, the first time it happened, I fell asleep coming back,” said Bascome. “Small island, but it’s just a long drive. The drive there seems long, it’s only 20 miles per hour. So, coming back is when I fell asleep.”
That’s when his coach, Wendell Baxter began molesting him. Baxter was one of the most well-known national players in Bermuda. He drove Bascome to and from soccer matches for the better part of seven years in the 1980’s. Almost every time, sexually abusing him again and again.
“We’d go down, play the game at the youth center. Even after the nights when I realized when I had to play like I’m asleep because I know we’re going back. Said ‘Here we go. Eyes had to close. Let’s get this over with’. Afterwards I go straight home. I run, go in the bathroom, cry for the longest time. Breathe, pull myself together, and move. That was the norm,” said Bascome.
He was too afraid to speak up. Scared for his safety and that the game he loves would be taken away.
“There were times I said no. But that’s where the aggressiveness came. ‘You’re not going to play’. I felt harm was going to be done to me,” added Bascome.
What made you keep making that trip? To keep playing under this coach?
“It’s so far past you then it becomes the norm. You know this is not right but at the end of the day you fear that something that you loved, and the only thing that was saving you from all these destructions, was the game. To lose the game was the biggest thing and my biggest fear. If I lost the game, no telling where I would be,” said Bascome.
The abuse stopped when Bascome left Bermuda for the United States to play soccer at Anderson University in South Carolina. After that, a lengthy pro career as a player and coach.
His mission now is helping at-risk kids here in Baltimore and in Bermuda. He founded the non-profit Hope For Life and preaches his Power of One campaign, which aims to keep at-risk kids off the street and build their self-esteem. The 47-year-old is a motivational speaker and volunteers weekly at various Police Athletic League centers around Baltimore.
“He’s a great guy. He’s a great motivator,” said Jarrell Simpkins, 15, from Halethorpe. “Every time he comes around we play sports. He never lets us give up on ourself. He’s an awesome guy and I’m glad he’s here.”
It’s easy to pick David Bascome out of the crowd. He’s the inspirational leader who has beaten the odds. And if you get the chance to get to meet him, he'll be in your corner forever.
“This is my legacy. Some peoples’ greatest value may be family. Mine is my legacy. I live for this. I live to help people. I live to help young people.”
In March Wendell Baxter pleaded guilty to 18 separate counts of sexually related child exploitation of three boys in the 1970’s and 80’s. One was David Bascome. Another was his older brother Andrew. The two didn’t learn of each other’s abuse until just seven years ago. Baxter is currently being held in a Bermuda jail. He is scheduled to be sentenced early next month.