I’d like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the Boy Scouts of America — not.
The national organization has just announced it will reveal to police the names of men it has suspected in the past of stalking young Boy Scouts for sexual purposes.
Well, finally! When you look at the history of this, you see it is long past due.
This oftentimes revered organization was founded in 1910 and almost immediately officials started to keep secret files on sexual predators who hovered around, attempting to prey on young boys. Commendable of them to try to keep some sort of record, but unfortunately, the Boy Scouts’ hierarchy never reported the suspected child molesters to law enforcement. Back then, such perversions were not a topic fit for public discussion, so the BSA’s so-called “perversion files” (officially called the “ineligible volunteer list”) were kept secret. The child molesters were left to roam free.
Decades went by, and the number of secret files grew and grew and grew. The New York Times has reported that by 1935 the Scouts had 2,910 “cards” on men who were not suitable to be around young boys.
In more modern times, BSA officials came to their senses — sometimes — and the police were notified about some of the most egregious cases. In the early 1990s, a handful of the perversion files were released to the public through the courts. They revealed that from 1971 to 1991, BSA officials had repeatedly failed to contact authorities about suspected pedophiles operating within their organization — even in cases where they had a confession! Shameful. Just shameful. Again, child molesters were left to roam free.
After that stunning revelation, the Boy Scouts of America vowed to do better. Whether it did is subject to interpretation. I think the BSA didn’t do nearly what it should have to make sure its Scouts and its communities were safe.
In 2010, a lawsuit was filed by a former Boy Scout in Portland who claimed that in the 1980s the organization failed to protect him from Timur Dykes, an assistant scout master who had already admitted he had molested Scouts but was allowed to work with boys anyway.
After seeing some of the perversion files, the jury awarded the former Scout $18.5 million. The once-secret files shown during the Dykes trial have now been ordered to be released to the public. They are expected to be available later this month — after victims’ and accusers’ names have been redacted.
And, now, suddenly in advance of the release of those bombshell files — kept between the years 1965 and 1985 — the Boy Scouts of America steps up to make its seemingly altruistic announcement. It apparently plans to scour its perversion files to find the names of suspected pedophiles who have slipped through the cracks and turn the names over to law-enforcement agencies around the country. They’ve hired a former police detective named Mike Johnson to lead the review.
This, after the Boy Scouts of America spent multiple decades caring more about its reputation than making sure child predators were locked up and Scouts were kept safe? Color me not very impressed. It sounds like an awfully familiar modes operandi, doesn’t it?
I believe that in this post-Catholic Church/Jerry Sandusky era, all thinking people realize that covering up child molestation has terrible and lasting consequences. One, it lets the predator-monster loose to prey on more children. Two, it leaves behind damaged souls who never got justice for what was done to them as children. Our prisons are full of convicts who report they were childhood victims of sex abuse and that in their psychological confusion and pent-up shame they turned to drugs, violence and crime.
By waiting this long to do the right thing, the Boy Scouts of America has committed another sin in the eyes of childhood molestation victims everywhere. The group’s prolonged silence and inaction boils down to this: It is too damn late in some states for victims to ever get justice. The statute of limitations on such crimes has run out.
Yes, release of the perversion files may result in new criminal prosecutions, but even a suspect’s confession is not enough. Any prosecutor will tell you they also need a complaining victim to come forward to testify, and that will not be an easy task. After all these years, these now-grown men might very well want to keep their nightmare a secret.
So, thanks, Boy Scouts of America. I’ve heard the BSA’s claim that the organization has been doing all it could to prevent sex abuse within the ranks. But you earn no merit badge from me for your assertion that you spent a century tracking known pedophiles to keep them away from young Scouts. It was simply not enough, and the BSA should have known that years ago.
Congratulations. You’ve earned your place in the Hall of Shame right behind the Catholic Church, Penn State University and every other group that has chosen its reputation over justice.
You’ve got a long way to go to untarnish the Boy Scout image.