Déjà Vu All Over Again
Now it’s the Boy Scouts. They have been forced by the court to release the “Perversion Files”: over 1200 reports of sexual abuse by scoutmasters from 1965-85. Admittedly the record is mixed. Some allegations were investigated and some scoutmasters were banned from scouting. Some reappeared with another troop after a hiatus. Hardly any were reported to law enforcement.
Now it’s the Boy Scouts. They have been forced by the court to release the “Perversion Files”: over 1200 reports of sexual abuse by scoutmasters from 1965-85.
Admittedly the record is mixed. Some allegations were investigated and some scoutmasters were banned from scouting. Some reappeared with another troop after a hiatus. Hardly any were reported to law enforcement.
Kelly Clark, a lawyer for some of the survivors, said of the files: “There is absolutely no indication that anybody at least at the national level of Scouting was being proactive to get this problem out in the open to get the help of law enforcement and act sort of proactively with it. You do see regular … examples of top Scout leadership or regional Scout leadership taking steps to try to keep this quiet, to keep it under wraps.”
Now that the files are available to the public, the BSA has apologized and admitted that 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.”
In 1981, a letter from the national office read: “I will agree that sleeping nude and showing boys pornographic books (italics mine) indicated very poor judgment in dealing with Cub Scouts. . . . I do not know, however, that this is a serious enough offense to refuse registration anywhere he might try to register unless there are more instances.”
So some people now look back and say, well, that was then and we didn’t know any better. Really? Cub Scouts? Sleeping with them nude and showing them porn? Not a serious offense and we’ll wait until something else happens? What were they thinking?
And then there is the faith community’s role in all of this. Many Boy Scout troops are sponsored by and/or meet in churches and synagogues. Where were they when all of this was going on?
“An assistant Scoutmaster in Texas in 1965 admitted to several acts of ‘perversion,’ a Boy Scout executive wrote. … ‘Of course we don’t know yet whether the parents of the boys involved’ are ‘going to file charges or not. The Minister of the Church is doing his best to protect Boy Scouting and keep this incident as quiet as possible,’ the executive wrote.”
In these 1200 reported cases, how many times were faith leaders part of the cover-up in an effort to "protect the institution" of the Boy Scouts at the expense of the victims of abuse?
Like in the church, the BSA is now acting --- but only when the secrecy has been lifted by law suits brought by survivors.
Penn State, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts - the list goes on and cannot be explained away by ignorance. Or at least we must acknowledge it to be “savage ignorance.”
Now we know better. No more excuses. Policies and practices that include screening and supervision are vital. Training of staff and volunteers is vital. Educating children, youth and adults about appropriate boundaries is vital. This is how we protect institutions: by beginning with protecting the people in them.
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
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