For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has kept a secret blacklist as a means of avoiding sexual abuse within its organizational structure. These so-called ‘perversion files’ are reportedly used to prevent hundreds of former volunteers who’ve been kicked out for alleged indiscretions from reentering the ranks. Unfortunately, despite their noble purpose, the perversion files have failed to expose scores of deviant scoutmasters who have managed to slip back into the Boy Scouts and molest young members.
Boy Scouts Sexual Abuse Update 9/26/12: This week, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that it will review its secret files to ensure that all acts of sexual abuse and molestation committed within its ranks over the past 47 years have been reported to the proper authorities. The move marks the first time in the organization’s hundred year history that it has conducted a thorough analysis of its so-called ‘perversion files’, a blacklist used for keeping sexual predators out of the Boy Scouts. Click here to learn more.
Free Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been abused, molested, or otherwise victimized, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit against the perpetrator of the abuse and we can help.
What’s the problem?
A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 documents compiled between 1970 and 1991 uncovered more than 125 cases in which former scout masters allegedly continued to sexually abuse boys after the BSA was informed of previous instances of molestation. The predators were apparently able to slither back into the organization by falsifying personal information or avoiding the registration process altogether. Others simply jumped from troop to troop in different regions of the country due to clerical errors, computer glitches, or the Scouts’ failure to double check the perversion files.
In some cases, BSA officials neglected to document reports of inappropriate behavior in the first place, allowing suspected abusers to stay with the Scouts until new accusations were brought forward. In others, abuse was properly documented but the perpetrator was allowed to continue working with the organization while on ‘probation.’ In no fewer than 50 cases, the BSA expelled deviant scout leaders, only to discover them back in the program molesting young boys a short time later.
In 1970, one scoutmaster was kicked out of the organization for molesting a 14-year-old boy in Indiana. Even after being convicted of the crime in a court of law, the man went on to join two other troops in Illinois in 1971 and 1988. He subsequently admitted to sexually assaulting more than 100 scouts, and was sentenced to 100 years in prison in 1989.
In 1991, a scout volunteer convicted of molesting a boy in Minnesota returned to his post with his old troop immediately after being released from jail.
“Basically, there were no controls,” said Bill Dworin, a child sexual abuse expert who analyzed hundreds of files as a witness for former scout member Kerry Lewis, who was abused by his troop leader in the 1980s. In 2010, Lewis was awarded close to $20 million for the pain and suffering he endured at the hands of the Scouts.
Since at least 1919, the BSA has kept so-called ‘ineligible volunteer’ documents to keep track of men who failed to live up to the organization’s moral codes. Files that involved instances of sexual molestation were subsequently placed in the perversion files. A master list of those banned from the scouts has been computerized for more than 35 years, and is used as a screening measure for volunteer and paid positions.
Only a select few BSA executives have access to the files, which are kept sealed at Scout headquarters in Irving, Texas. But in the years since the files were first created, hundreds of documents have been admitted as evidence in lawsuits by former Scouts who claim they were abused as boys.
As a result of an Oregon Supreme Court decision, many of the Boy Scout perversion files will soon be made public. Under pressure from the Oregonian, the Associated Press, the New Yorker, and other media outlets, the court ordered the release of more than 1,200 files documented between 1965 and 1984 which were admitted as evidence in the 2010 lawsuit.
For its part, the BSA maintains that it uses the files as a fundamental tool in preventing child abuse. In addition to the files, the organization has implemented a number of other protective measures in recent years. In 1988, the Scouts scrapped their probation program in favor of automatically expelling anyone suspected of sexual abuse. In 2008, criminal background checks were made mandatory for all volunteers, and in 2010 the BSA required all suspected abuse to be reported to law enforcement officials. And though these may be steps in the right direction, the Boy Scouts of America continues to fight in court against the release of more recent perversion files.
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