Between 1910 and 2010, over 114 million young men and boys have been members of the Boys Scouts of America. The motto of “Be Prepared” has long been pledged by boys from an early age, all the way through their teen years. Unfortunately, this organization that sought to forge strong values in the nation’s male youths also has had a dirty secret. Since the 1920’s, the organization has been aware that their young members have been targeted as prey for sexual abuse by pedophiles volunteering as scout leaders.
Emergence Of The “Perversion Files”
After the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) was founded in 1910, it was not long before incidences of sexual abuse by scout leaders were uncovered. Starting in the 1920’s, the BSA began keeping confidential files on volunteers that were accused of sexually abusing boys within the organization. This “Ineligible Volunteer File” was how the BSA quietly identified pedophiles in their ranks and attempted to keep them out of the organization. Decades later, these files would be named the “Perversion Files” as they were made public during landmark lawsuits against the BSA.
However, even though these files had been kept within the organization for close to 90 years, they were eventually released to the public just recently. In 2011, a portion of these files used in a 1980’s sexual abuse case in California was published in the Los Angeles Times, detailing 1,900 abusers from 1971- 1991. Then again in 2012, after an $18.5 million civil lawsuit in Oregon against the BSA was settled, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of 20,000 pages of these files dating from 1965-1985, with records regarding 1,200 people.
Boy Scout Organization Perpetuating Sexual Abuse Through Silence
The most damaging evidence against the BSA is the organization's apparent knowledge of sexual abuse with no real attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice. Although these “perversion files” were kept under the guise of keeping pedophiles out of the organization, they also show that the BSA was well aware of the abuse and did nothing to alert authorities or the victim’s parents about the abuse. This knowledge and silence may have been the most damaging aspects of this disturbing history of abusive acts in the BSA.
The detailed documentation that the BSA kept in secret all these years shows that 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 that over 2,900 men had been identified as “ineligible volunteers” because of sexual abuse against children. It was not until the 1980’s that the BSA began their Youth Protection program, which actively began addressing the problem of abuse in the organization.
Over 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 90 years back, many victims suffered in silence and undoubtedly never reported the abuse that occurred to them as young boys. Fortunately, those who have come forward have helped bring light to these dark secrets which can help protect other young boys from such abuse.
Where to turn if you were a victim?
Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC stand by victims of sexual abuse in all contexts. Our Illinois sexual abuse attorneys are always sensitive to your needs and desires when taking steps necessary to prosecute your case from a civil litigation perspective fully. If you were abused while in the Boy Scout organization, contact our office for a confidential discussion with an attorney who can explain your legal options.
For additional reading on sexual abuse involving Boy Scouts of America: