Confidential files naming more than 1,000 volunteers and leaders with the Boy Scouts who sexually molested boys in their charge over a two-decade period were released publicly on Thursday, opening the door for possible criminal charges and setting the stage for legal battles with victims who believe the organization should have done more to protect them.
The files contain “the anguish of thousands of Scouts” who were abused by their leaders, said attorney Paul Mones at a news conference Thursday in Portland, Oregan where a decisive law suit took place. "Scout leaders accused of child molestation were in a candy store.”
"The stories in those files are real little boys and real stories of abuse," another attorney, Kelly Clark, told the Seattle Times. "And when the public sees these stories in black and white, I think the level of understanding and frustration about sexual abuse in Scouting is going to be significantly elevated."
Clark posted the voluminous secret files on a searchable database, allowing the pubic to see for the first time the volume of sex abuse charges levied against scout leaders and volunteers from 1965 to 1985.
The files show the name of the suspect, the troop, the date of the accusation, details of the alleged abuse, and documentation of how the Scouts handled charges. Names of the boys involved have been removed.
The Boy Scouts of America kept the files in an effort to prevent repeated abuse, forcing suspects to resign and putting the details in a “perversion file” that was supposed to keep those same suspects from working with different troops.
But the system was far from perfect, and the files show a pattern of abuse that was allowed to repeat itself as some leaders and volunteers fell below the radar.
"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,” said BSA President Wayne Perry in a statement.
“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.”
The unprecedented release follows a 2010 lawsuit in Oregon in which a jury awarded $20 million to a former scout who said the BSA had not done enough to prevent his abuse at the hands of an abusive assistant leader.
The BSA asked the court to seal the files but the Oregon Supreme Court ruled they should be released.