Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Boy Scouts: Secret Sex Abuse Files As Far Back As the 1920's

The sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy scout by an adult volunteer was part of a "sordid history of child sexual abuse" within the Boy Scouts that has been documented internally by the organization for nearly a century.  This was just one of several stunning revelations made at the outset of an Oregon lawsuit this week.

The scout, now 20 years old, has sued the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for punitive damages after being molested by a volunteer leader in 2007. He claims that the Scouts failed to educate, train and warn parents and adult volunteers about the dangers of sex abuse.

His attorney, Tim Hale, won the right to draw from more than 30 years of "perversion" files kept by the BSA-- but it turns out that the BSA actually kept hidden  almost 10,000 such files, detailing sexual abuse cases as far back as 1920.  "The Boy Scouts of America has a long and sordid history of child sexual abuse committed by Scout leaders . . . What has not been going on is [notification] to the public and [affected] parents," Tim Hale said in his opening statement.

Boy Scouts of America officials have tried to claim that the "perversion" files were created to keep children safe by maintaining a master list of people ineligible to volunteer with the Scouts.  But the organization will not admit any wrongdoing in keeping its investigations and case files a secret-- acknowledging only that it had made some mistakes in the way sex abuse allegations were handled in the past.

In 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Scouts to make public a trove of files from 1965 to 1985. The records showed that more than one-third of abuse allegations never were reported to police and that even when authorities were told, little was done.  The 1965-85 documents came to light after a jury in 2010 imposed a nearly $20 million penalty against the Scouts in a molestation case in Portland, Oregon, that dated to the early 1980s.

Since then, plaintiffs' attorneys in several states, including Texas and Minnesota, have sought to publicize the more recent records through similar lawsuits.  But the BSA settled all those cases before they went to trial-- thus preventing public dissemination of the incriminating records.

The judge in the current Oregon case has already ruled that after the trial, the plaintiff's counsel and other interested parties can petition the court for the release of all the files.  Cross your fingers . . .

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