Today, I will depart from my normal commentary about the important election we are facing in less than three weeks. There is something else that deserves our attention.
If you asked me to describe myself, I would tell you I am a fairly laid back individual. I am passionate about my politics, as you know, from reading my blog. For the most part, I try to have patience with people I disagree with. However, there are certain issues with which I have a major problem. There is only one thing that gets my hackles up quicker than encountering a bully. Child abuse, sexual or otherwise, turns my stomach in a way I can not explain. I am not a violent person, but I could describe several ways of hurting someone who is guilty of such acts. The new revelations about the Boy Scouts of America fits that description perfectly.
I haven’t read the so-called perversion files that have been reluctantly released by the Boy Scouts. Please note that I emphasized the reluctant part of that sentence. The Boy Scouts had no intention of releasing the detailed information they had compiled and had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, all the way to that threshold. Their reasoning was simple and it has remained the same for decades. The organization wanted to do everything it could to protect the good name and reputation of Scouting. Does that sound familiar? It should bring back a lot of memories about how the Catholic Church attempted to cover up the sexual abuse that was so rampant among its priests. In light of that, I would ask a simple question. Why does it seem the Boy Scouts were more concerned about their good name and reputation, than they were about the safety and well-being of the children in their charge?
I have read some of the cases detailed by The Associated Press and it is sickening. The abuse and the resulting cover up astound me, to the point of asking how could this happen. How could community leaders be so concerned about the Boy Scouts that they would allow admitted child molesters to walk free?
Again and again, decade after decade, an array of authorities — police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and local Boy Scout leaders among them — quietly shielded scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children, a newly opened trove of confidential papers shows.
At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th century America. But as detailed in 14,500 pages of secret “perversion files” released Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, their maneuvers allowed sexual predators to go free while victims suffered in silence.
The files are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files, kept at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents and newspaper clippings about legal cases. The files contain details about proven molesters, but also unsubstantiated allegations.
The allegations stretch across the country and to military bases overseas, from a small town in the Adirondacks to downtown Los Angeles.
The cases detailed in these files are shocking. They number in the thousands and make me wonder how they were continually swept under the rug, without parents raising such a protest that they had to be acknowledged. I know what my reaction would have been, had one of my children been a victim of these perverts. The community leader that tried to convince me to keep quite, for the sake of the Boy Scouts wouldn’t have been pleased with my response.
Here are the details of one case, taking place in Louisiana.
On the afternoon of Aug. 10, 1965, their distraught mother walked into the third floor of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office. A 31-year-old scoutmaster, she told the chief criminal deputy, had raped one of her sons and molested two others.
Six days later, the scoutmaster, an unemployed airplane mechanic, sat down in front of a microphone in the same station, said he understood his rights and confessed: He had sexually abused the woman’s sons more than once.
“I don’t know how to tell it,” the man told a sheriff’s deputy. “They just occurred — I don’t know an explanation, why we done it or I done it or wanted to do it or anything else it just — an impulse I guess or something.
“As far as an explanation I just couldn’t dig one up.”
He wouldn’t have to. Seven days later, the decision was made not to pursue charges against the scoutmaster.
The last sliver of hope for justice for the abuse of two teenagers and an 11-year-old boy slipped away in a confidential letter from a Louisiana Scouts executive to the organization’s national personnel division in New Jersey.
“This subject and Scouts were not prosecuted,” the executive wrote, “to save the name of Scouting.”
The files released Thursday were collected between 1959 and 1985, with a handful of others from later years. Some have been released previously, but others — those from prior to 1971, including the story of the three scouts in Ouachita Parish — have been made public for the first time.
The documents reveal that on many occasions the files succeeded in keeping pedophiles out of Scouting leadership positions — the reason why they were collected in the first place. But the files are also littered with horrific accounts of alleged pedophiles who were able to continue in Scouting because of pressure from community leaders and local Scouts officials.
The files also document other troubling patterns. There is little mention in the files of concern for the welfare of Scouts who were abused by their leaders, or what was done for the victims. But there are numerous documents showing compassion for alleged abusers, who were often times sent to psychiatrists or pastors to get help.
In 1972, a local Scouting executive beseeched national headquarters to drop the case against a suspected abuser because he was undergoing professional treatment and was personally taking steps to solve his problem. “If it don’t stink, don’t stir it,” the local executive wrote.
Who is supposed to be watching over the children who were placed in the care of the Boy Scouts? Obviously, it wasn’t the Boy Scouts. The files show they were much more concerned with their reputation than for the safety of the children they professed to care so much about. Why were they so ready and willing to help and counsel the men who were guilty of these acts of abuse and at the same time, so unwilling to give the victimized children the justice they deserved?
I bear no ill will towards the Boy Scouts, but something has to change. How any parent could continue to allow their children to be a part of such an organization is past my comprehension. Heads should roll for this abuse and the cover up that has followed. If the Boy Scouts have refused to change their behavior and continue hiding the cases of sexual abuse that is in their ranks, they should be closed down and prevented from harming one more child.