Boy Scouts' child abuse policy comes under fire

Boy Scouts of America lawsuit
October 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a new call for Congress to audit the Boy Scouts of America. At issue is its child abuse policy. It follows the court ordered release of what had been confidential files detailing more than a thousand alleged cases of sexual abuse involving scout leaders.

They're called the perversion files, which cover sexual abuse cases from the 1960s to the 1980s, including about two dozen from the Bay Area. The confidential files reveal the names of 1,200 suspected pedophiles.

"Today is also a victory for all of the victims who suffer in silence and now their voice is heard," said former Boy Scout Matt Stewart.

Stewart of Gilroy successfully sued the Boy Scouts after being molested for 13 years in Washington State. Today more than 14,000 pages of confidential files became public after a ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court.

"You do not keep secrets about hidden about dangers to children. Period. End of Conversation," said Kelly Clark, an attorney for an abuse victim.

But the files show that in a third of the cases, the Boy Scouts of America never told police about sexual abuse allegations. In one memo, a scouting executive suggests dropping a case against a suspected abuser writing, "If it don't stink, don't stir it." The head of the Boy Scouts says there are stronger safeguards in place today.

"There is no question that there are times in the past, and these go back 40 or 50 years old, where we did not do the job that we should have. And for that, and for the people hurt, we are profoundly sorry," said Wayne Perry, the Boy Scouts of America president.

But a large number of the sex abuse allegations in the files are unsubstantiated. ABC7 News legal analyst Dean Johnson sees the potential for numerous lawsuits.

"There undoubtedly will be former Boy Scouts who will be suing the Boy Scouts organization, who will be suing the individuals named, and some of the named individuals may very well be suing the Boy Scouts organization for invasion of privacy, for defamation," said Johnson.

Stewart knows what he would like to happen.

"Congress should remove all funding for the Boy Scouts, especially in light of the fact that the Boy Scouts have been protecting child molesters for over 100 years," said Stewart.

One former Bay Area scout leader we contacted denied ever being the target of a sex abuse allegation, even though there is a file on him.

It's too late to prosecute the cases because the statute of limitations has expired, but it is possible in California to file lawsuits under certain circumstances.


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