Under orders from the Oregon Supreme Court, thousands of documents were released today outlining evidence of longstanding and widespread sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America.
The documents, which the Boy Scouts had fought to keep secret, contained information collected since shortly after its inception in 1910, including letters from victims and their parents, as well as memos and handwritten notes. Some allegations had been substantiated, while others were yet undetermined.
In all, there were 14,500 pages of evidence released.
The decision follows approximately two years of legal wrangling involving the Boy Scouts of America and Portland attorney Kelly Clark. Clark had won a lawsuit in 2010 lodged by a former Boy Scout who claimed that he was molested in the 1980’s by an assistant scout leader. After the judge ruled in the man’s favor, he ordered that the documents be released publicly, but the Scouts fought to keep them sealed at their headquarters in Texas.
“You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children,” Clark stated at a press conference today. “Child abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems are where it breeds. And these secrets are out.”
Wayne Perry, president of the Boy Scouts of America, likewise issued a statement following the release of the documents.
“There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong,” he said. “Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.”
Perry noted, however, that the organization has increased efforts in recent years to prevent pedophiles from entering the program, including tightened background checks, more rigorous training and mandatory reporting.
Many of the incidents that are outlined in the files were never reported to police.
The Boy Scouts of America states, however, that the documents were used internally to keep track of suspect pedophiles, and that on many occasions, those that were believed to have been involved with inappropriate relations with boys were expelled. Yet, for at least 50 of those incidents, somehow the men reentered and became repeat offenders. According to The Los Angeles Times, in over 125 cases, men continued to molest scouts even after incidents were reported.
Those that have reviewed the files state that they reveal a definite pattern of “grooming” by pedophiles, who sought to befriend the boys before sexually abusing them.
“These guys basically were in a candy store, the way they thought about it,” stated attorney Paul Mones.
As previously reported, in July of this year, the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement reaffirming its policy prohibiting open homosexuals from joining the organization.
“The committee’s work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth,” the statement said. “The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations — both from within Scouting and from outside of the organization.”
The policy does not prohibit homosexuals altogether, but rather only those that are open about their same-sex attractions.
“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA,” it states.
In the days following the announcement, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made known — through staffers — that he disapproved and disagreed with the Boy Scouts’ decision. According to The Associated Press, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the news outlet in an email that Romney still stands by his beliefs that homosexual men should be able to serve in the organization. She specifically noted that Romney had outlined his views in 1994 during a political debate, and that his stance has not changed.
“I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue,” Romney stated during the debate. “I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who serves on the executive board of the organization, has vowed to overturn the ban on open homosexuality when he replaces Perry as president in 2014.
Some believe that today’s release of the thousands of pages outlining a morbid history of sexual abuse in the organization could now lead to a multitude of lawsuits over how the Boy Scouts of America has handled alleged molestation incidents for decades.