Boy Scouts apologize to victims as 'perversion files' released
As more than 1,200 Boy Scouts of America "perversion files" were released under an Oregon court order, the organization's national president issued an apology to victims and parents and acknowledged that efforts to protect children had sometimes fallen short.
In a statement Thursday, the Boy Scouts' national president, Wayne Perry, acknowledged that incidents of abuse have occurred and that some were mishandled by the Scouts.
“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,” Perry 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."
He also underscored the organization’s enhanced child-protection efforts in recent years, including beefed-up background checks and training of leaders and mandatory reporting of all suspected abuse.
The files offer the public an unprecedented look at how suspected molestations were handled by one of the nation’s leading youth organizations from the early 1960s through 1985, a time when awareness of sexual abuse was evolving rapidly.
“The secrets are out,” said Kelly Clark, one of the plaintiff's lawyers in an Oregon lawsuit that resulted in a nearly $20-million judgment against the Scouts in 2010. “Child abuse thrives in secrecy, and secret systems are where it breeds. And these secrets are out.”
In recent months, The Times has published an investigation of those files and thousands of case summaries from 1940 to 2005. The files and summaries were obtained from Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, who has sued the Scouts on behalf of dozens of abuse victims.
In September, The Times reported that the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.
Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign and helped many cover their tracks, allowing the molesters to cite bogus reasons for their departure.
In 80% of the 500 cases in which the Scouts were the first to learn about abuse, there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.
Nine days later after the Times report appeared, the Boy Scouts announced that they would conduct a comprehensive review of some 5,000 files going back to the 1940s and would report to law enforcement any cases they had not previously disclosed.
The Scouts have warned that the release of the files could have a chilling effect on the reporting of alleged abuse. For nearly a century, the Scouts have maintained the national archive, known inside the organization as the “perversion files,” as a way of preventing men suspected of abuse from reentering Scouting.
Legal experts say some of the revelations in the files could lead to lawsuits against the Boy Scouts over their handling of alleged abuse.
-- Jason Felch and Kim Christensen