Boy Scouts release secret child abuse files -- 'the pain and the anguish of thousands'
By Miranda Leitsinger, NBC News
More than 1,200 formerly secret Boy Scouts’ files detailing accusations of child sex abuse within the organization from 1965 to 1985 were published online Thursday by lawyers, who said they offered lessons in the battle against pedophiles.
The documents, known as the “ineligible volunteer” files within the organization, were ordered released by the Oregon Supreme Court. Media organizations had sued for the release of the files, part of a 2010 case in which a Portland, Ore., jury decided that the Scouts were negligent in allowing a former assistant Scoutmaster to associate with the organization's youth after he admitted molesting 17 boys, said Kelly Clark, one of the victims' attorneys.
“While we can read through the files, for us it represents the pain and the anguish of thousands of untold scouts,” said attorney Paul Mones, who litigated the 2010 case on behalf of victims in Oregon with lawyer Kelly Clark. “While there are 1,247 files, we know that each scout leader (accused of molestation) molested on the average more than one scout.”
The attorneys called for Congress to audit the Boy Scouts, which is a congressionally chartered organization, to ensure that the group was following its current child abuse policy.
Greg Wahl-Stephens / AP
Portland attorney Kelly Clark is shown Tuesday with some of the 14,500 pages of previously confidential documents created by the Boy Scouts of America concerning child sexual abuse within the organization.
The files represent reports of Scouts allegedly abused by more than 1,200 different scoutmasters and other adult volunteers across the country. The files can be accessed on www.kellyclarkattorney.com
“You will see in the files over and over again where there is a concern that this material not get out … this will make Scouting look bad,” Clark said. Alleged offenders were also being “given second chances,” he added.
In one of the files, a Cub Scout leader was caught sleeping in the nude with boys on a camping trip and showing them pornography.
“The response from the national organization … says: ‘I will agree that sleeping nude and showing boys pornographic books indicated very poor judgment in dealing with Cub Scouts,'” Clark said, reading from one of the documents. “'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.'”
In a number of the cases, the allegations were later substantiated by court proceedings, the attorneys said. However, in a great many cases no such substantiation ever occurred.
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A report released by the Boy Scouts in September said that 829 of the files from Jan. 1, 1965, to June 30, 1984, involved suspicions or confirmations of inappropriate sexual behavior with 1,622 youth. The report was done for the organization by Dr. Janet Warren, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia.
Some of the findings included:
-- 486 of the men identified in the files as suspects were arrested at some time for a sex crime. It may have occurred before they got involved with Scouting, as a result of the incident noted in their file or after they left the organization.
-- In 531 of the cases, there was information indicating alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with multiple youths.
-- In 252 of the cases, the available information indicated alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with only a single victim.
-- 128 of the men in the files had their registration revoked within a year of signing up.
-- Police were involved in the investigation of 523 cases.
At the time, the Boy Scouts said in a letter that they would review their files created from 1965 to the present “and ensure that all good-faith suspicion of abuse has been reported to law enforcement.” They also said that while 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.”
Boy Scouts admit response to sex abuse was 'insufficient'
On Thursday morning, the organization reiterated that in a statement and also noted: “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.”
“While it is difficult to understand or explain individuals’ actions from many decades ago, today Scouting is a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse,” the statement added.
In an interview with NBCDFW.com, volunteer CEO Wayne Perry said: "I would ask parents to look at the programs we have and then judge us versus, maybe not the past, but judge where we are today and certainly judge us against any other youth service organization in the world and they will see that your kids are very, very safe."
But the attorneys said the files could still inform future prevention of child sex abuse since the documents revealed how pedophiles operated and infiltrated youth groups -- knowledge “no other youth organization had at that time or since,” Mones said.
“The importance is what Scouts could have done with this information,” he said. “At the trial they said they had never looked at the files to examine them for any purpose to protect Scouts. Their one goal of taking Scout leaders out who had molested Scouts, yes … they did take Scouts out. However, the information that they gleaned, how these people used Scouting activities to bring Scouts into their midst, how these guys were not just bad leaders … these people were leading Scouts.”
“So our goal really is to look to the future through the past,” he added.
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For John Mark Buckland, 42, who was abused by a Scout leader at Travis Air Force Base in Vacaville, Calif., the release represented an empowering moment.
“It unveils all the secrecy, or at least a good portion of it, and the secrecy is the biggest demon there is when it comes to things like this, because it’s by being hidden that it basically just eats people away like a cancer,” Buckland, of Huntington, W. Va., told NBC News.
“We’ve been powerless up to now. We’ve been at the whims of a multibillion-dollar organization that … has all the money to keep us under a desk in a box. And for now, they can’t do it anymore.”