When the Boy Scouts of America began in 1910 and for decades afterward, it was regarded as an organization that imparted positive values and experiences to the boys and young men within its ranks. Many participants had such experiences, and kept participating with the BSA in a volunteer capacity when they reached adulthood.
Sadly, however, the Boy Scouts of America has a much darker side, which has become especially public in recent decades. An unknown number of young males have been sexually abused by adult volunteers in the organization. A recent lawsuit and subsequent settlement brought the BSA back into the media spotlight, including an internal record of abuse allegations commonly referred to as the “perversion files.”
The BSA officially refers to the list as the Ineligible Volunteer Files, which have never been released publicly in their entirety. High-profile sex abuse lawsuits filed against the organization have resulted in public disclosure of allegations documented within specific time periods.
In the most recent case, a former Boy Scout, now 20 years old, sued the BSA after being molested by a 29-year-old volunteer in 2003. A judge recently ruled that the plaintiff’s attorney would be given access to 30 years of data in the perversion files, including records that have never been seen outside the organization (records from 1991 to 2007).
Because the lawsuit was settled shortly after the judge’s ruling, it is unclear if the files will still be handed over. There is also a discrepancy in the number of total files, but even the most conservative estimates (reported by an attorney for the BSA) put the number at around 7,500 files.
As an organization, the BSA has certainly improved its policies and protections of boys participating in scouting. But there is still much work to do and far too much secrecy. How many lawsuits will be required before the organization finally agrees to disclose all files and to act with full transparency?
Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Boy Scouts settle sex abuse lawsuit before ‘perversion files’ are opened,” Amanda Covarrubias, Jan. 29, 2015