The Oregon Supreme Court has ordered the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to release its “perversion files” of suspected sex offenders from 1965 to 1985. The BSA has kept such files on hand since its founding in 1910.
Critics say the Scouts should have released the files decades ago. The BSA argues it has done everything possible to prevent sexual abuse within the organization by tracking pedophiles and using these records to keep known offenders out of the organization. But a report conducted by psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Warren indicates that the prevention system wasn’t 100 percent foolproof. Her report found there were 1,302 sexual abuse victims involved in Scouting from the 930 files she examined that were created between January 1965 and June 1984.
Warren also compared the rate of victimization in the Scouts—about 1.4 to 2.1 youth per 100,000—to the nationally reported incidence of child abuse by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which found that in 1980, 70 per 100,000 children experience sexual exploitation each year.
In an internal statement accompanying the report, the BSA admitted its inefficiency: “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.”
BSA spokesman Deron Smith said the organization would not only turn over the court-ordered files, but also will go back into the files and report any offenders who may have fallen through the cracks.
The release of these files means that the names of alleged abusers and of Scout leaders who failed to report them will be made public. The release could also prompt a new round of criminal prosecutions for offenders who have thus far escaped justice.
This isn’t the first time courts have ordered the BSA to release these files. In 2010, Kerry Lewis accused scoutmaster Timur Dykes of sexual assault in the 1980s. As part of the case, the courts ordered the BSA to release its “perversion files” from 1971 to 1991. The files revealed the organization was aware of repeated instances of sexual assault but never reported offenders to authorities. In some cases the BSA even allowed the offenders, including Dykes, to stay in the organization.
A jury in that case ruled that the BSA, by withholding those files from authorities, had failed to protect Lewis from a pedophile and awarded him $18.5 million.
Kelly Clark, a Portland-based lawyer who represented Lewis, said the documents indicated that even though the BSA has been collecting the files for more than 100 years, the organization has failed to protect boys from pedophiles.
“What’s significant is that the Boy Scouts [have had] these files for so long and not [learned] from them,” Clark said.