The Institutions That Harmed Children: The Boy Scouts of America


A Stamp printed in USA shows the Three Boys, Statue of Liberty and Scout Badge, circa 1950

Child sexual abuse is an issue that many people try not to think about, even going so far as to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

But it does exist.

The Perversion Files

Los Angeles Times reporters spent a year reviewing confidential files on suspected sexual abusers that had been hidden away for decades by the Boy Scouts of America. Beginning in 2011, the newspaper began to run a series of stories on the “perversion” files, along with a database including 1,900 files and 3,100 case summaries describing sexual abuse that occurred between 1947 and 2005.

The files can be found in an online database, along with two decades of files released by order of the Oregon Supreme Court in October 2012. Together, the information in the database represents the most complete accounting of suspected sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts that has been made public. The Boy Scouts kept the files for internal use only for nearly a century.

Boy Scouts of America Failed to Stop Abuse, Helped Conceal It

Besides the actual abuse, the Los Angeles Times uncovered an extremely appalling fact: Boy Scout officials not only failed to stop known predators from molesting children, but sometimes even helped them cover their tracks:

  • Over nearly twenty years, a California Boy Scout leader molested at least 15 children in Southern California and British Columbia, most of whom he met through scouting. In 1979, the Boy Scouts of America decided not to call the police after the man admitted to molesting three Orange County, CA boys. Instead, Scouting officials chose to follow the national recommendations of the Boy Scouts of America and its board: “You do not want to broadcast to the entire population that these things happen. You take care of it quietly and make sure it never happens again,” according to former Orange County Scouting executive A. Buford Hill Jr.
  • In at least 50 cases documented in the files, the Boy Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to allow them to rejoin the organization and molest again. One scoutmaster, expelled in 1970 after being convicted for sexually assaulting a boy in Indiana, went on to join two more troops in Illinois between 1971 and 1988. He later admitted to molesting more than 100 boys, was convicted of the sexual assault of a Scout in 1989 and was subsequently sentenced to 100 years in prison.
  • In 1988, a Boy Scout witnessed a Georgia Scoutmaster molesting another Scout. The allegations were forwarded to Scouting headquarters but there is no indication that law enforcement was ever informed of the incident. Days after being accused, the man moved out of state and is now a truck driver with no criminal record living 20 miles from where the alleged event took place.

Inaction is permission, on the part of the Boy Scouts of America, and as a society. When institutions we trust to protect our children allow them to be abused instead, they must be held accountable.

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