Since its founding in 1910, more than 115 million boys and young men have been members of the Boys Scouts of America. The BSA motto of “Be Prepared” has long been pledged by boys from an early age all the way through their teen years. Unfortunately, the same organization that sought to forge strong values in the nation’s male youth also has had a dirty secret: Since the 1920s, BSA has been aware that its young members have been targeted as prey for sexual abuse by pedophiles volunteering as scout leaders.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to holding the Boy Scouts organization accountable for abuse perpetrated by scout leaders and other officials. If you or a loved one was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of someone associated with the Boy Scouts, we are here to ease your concerns and discuss your legal options for financial recovery. Our office is centrally located in Chicago, Illinois, and we have a network of Boy Scout sexual-abuse attorneys across the U.S. Complete our online case intake form today and we will contact you as soon as possible.
Emergence of the “Perversion Files”
After the Boys Scouts of America was founded in 1910, it was not long before incidents of sexual abuse by scout leaders began rearing their heads. Starting in the 1920s, BSA started keeping confidential files on volunteers who were accused of sexually abusing boys within the organization. This “ineligible volunteer file” was how BSA quietly identified pedophiles in its ranks and attempted to keep them out of the organization. Decades later, these files would be renamed the “perversion files” as they were made public during landmark lawsuits against BSA.
However, although these files had been kept within the organization for close to 90 years, they were released to the public only in recent years. In 2011, content from the files that was used as evidence in a 1980s sexual abuse case in California was published in the Los Angeles Times, revealing 1,900 alleged abusers from 1971 to 1991.
Then in 2012, after BSA settled an $18.5 million civil lawsuit in Oregon (see below), the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of 20,000 pages from these files dating from 1965 to 1985, containing information about 1,200 suspected pedophiles.
Boy Scouts Organization Perpetuated Sexual Abuse Through Silence
The most damaging evidence against BSA is the organization’s apparent knowledge of sexual abuse of children in its care with no real attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice. Although these “perversion files” were created under the guise of keeping pedophiles out of the organization, they also show that BSA was well aware of the abuse but did nothing to alert authorities or the victims’ parents about it. This knowledge and conspiracy of silence may be the most disturbing part of BSA’s history of sexual abuse.
The detailed documentation that BSA kept secret all these years reveals they were acutely aware of the problem and knew the harm that was being inflicted on their young members. It is estimated that by 1935, over 2,900 men had been identified as “ineligible volunteers” because of sexual abuse against children. It was not until the late 1980s that BSA started its “Youth Protection” program, which began actively addressing the problem of abuse within the organization.
More than 2,000 cases of abuse were reported by Scout leaders before 1994, although the number of victims is most likely much higher. With documented abuse happening almost a century back, many victims undoubtedly suffered in silence and never reported the abuse inflicted on them as young boys. Fortunately, those who have come forward have helped bring light to these dark secrets, which can help protect other boys from such abuse.
High-Profile Legal Cases and Claims Against the Boy Scouts
Lewis v. Boys Scouts of America et al. (Oregon, 2010)
This was a 2010 child sexual molestation suit filed against the Boy Scouts by a former member of the youth organization. He alleged that in the 1980s, his scout leader abused him. The same man had previously confessed to a BSA coordinator to having sexually abused over one dozen boys in the Scouts organization. The plaintiff argued that the organization could have taken steps to prevent further abuse but did not, allowing him to be victimized by the perpetrator. The case was decided in 2010 by a jury, who awarded the victim $19.9 million, $18.5 million of which was for punitive damages that are meant to punish egregious conduct. The jury believed that the organization’s pre-existing knowledge of the troop leader’s actions and failure to remove him from the Boy Scouts justified this award.
29 Men Sue the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church in Idaho
This group brought two lawsuits against the Boy Scouts and Church of Latter Day Saints. They alleged that the organizations knew about predatory volunteers within their groups but did nothing to stop them. These perpetrators went on to molest boys, including them, from the 1960s through the 1980s. All the alleged abuse occurred in Idaho. Many of the men who brought these cases settled their claims or had them dismissed. This is another example of the growing legal problems facing Boy Scouts of America.
Where can You Turn if You Were a Victim of Boy Scout Sexual Abuse?
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers stand by victims of sexual abuse in all contexts. Our sexual abuse attorneys are sensitive to your needs and wishes when taking the steps necessary to fully prosecute your case from a civil litigation perspective. If you were abused while a member of the Boy Scout organization, contact our office for a confidential discussion with a Boy Scout sex assault attorney who can explain your legal options.
For additional reading on sexual abuse involving Boy Scouts of America: