Last week’s shocking news — that Scout leaders kept thousands of pages of “perversion files” about accusations of sexual abuse of young Scouts — has sullied the BSA’s reputation and forced BSA leaders to address nearly a century of inexcusable actions.
Embedded in nearly 15,000 pages of documents made public are two main issues: (1.) the voluminous amount of reports of accusations of abuse, (2.) and the fact that BSA officials, law enforcement and others spent decades protecting the Scouts’ brand by keeping these files and the charges within them hidden from public scrutiny.
As seen earlier this year in the child-abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, sexual molestation of vulnerable youths is a despicable, disgusting crime. Sandusky, who mentored children through his nonprofit group The Second Mile, is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence after being found guilty of 10 counts of child abuse. We’re deeply saddened by what may prove to be another painful disclosure of child sex abuse in the United States.
The Scouts’ “perversion files” are on a different level. Instead of one potential offender, the Scouts’ files document numerous claims of molestation of Scouts, often by those who wore a Scouting uniform. It buckles one’s knees to think that this many people in positions of power and influence chose Scouting’s popularity over the protection of children — not to mention the prosecution of potential criminals.
These files are damning. According to the Associated Press, “[T]here’s at least one memo from a local Scouting executive pleading for better guidance on how to handle abuse allegations. Sometimes the pleading went the other way, with national headquarters begging local leaders for information on suspected abusers, and the locals dragging their feet …
“But one of the most startling revelations to come from the files is the frequency with which attempts to protect Scouts from molesters collapsed at the local level, at times in collusion with community leaders.”
Our thoughts today don’t center solely on the Boy Scouts of America. Instead, we’re moved by the recurring instances of men in power — such as coaches and priests — who get their sexual fun by abusing children within their care. Whether it’s the Catholic church, the Penn State scandal or these allegations in the Boy Scouts’ files, it is time this nation takes a more serious, proactive approach on protecting children from those who would molest them.
Whatever we’re doing isn’t working.
These Boy Scout allegations are bad enough by themselves. But they show — harshly — what happens when adults put anything above the protection of a child. In that sense, enablers are as guilty as molesters themselves.