Commentary on the "perversion files"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Deborah Donovan Rice
Executive Director, Stop It Now!
413.587.3500 ext. 1
413.320.6113 (cell)

Do the Boy Scout "perversion files" really tell us anything new?

by Paul Sheren, Board of Directors, Stop It Now!

October 19, 2012

As America’s leading advocate for the prevention of child sexual abuse, Stop It Now! applauds the Oregon Supreme Court decision to make public confidential files documenting reports of the sexual abuse of Scouts by 1,200 different Scoutmasters and adult volunteers in 49 states from 1965 to 1985. The Boy Scouts of America has maintained these “ineligible volunteer” files for nearly a century since the organization’s founding in 1910.

The files provide hard evidence that the Boy Scouts put its public relations needs ahead of the safety and wellbeing of the children entrusted to it. The 14,500 pages of documents repeatedly reflect the concern that the facts of each case “will make Scouting look bad,” and there are frequent instances of alleged offenders being given second chances.

Tragically, these files tell us nothing we as a society do not already know. We have been here before:

  • Once again, in order to save its reputation and avoid scandal, leadership of a universally respected institution has turned a blind eye to instances of child sexual abuse and, rather than bring an offender to justice, enabled at least the potential of repeat offenses by failing to report cases of abuse. 
  • Once again, abused children have taken second place to preserving the reputation of the adults and institutions that provided a safe haven for their abusers and been denied the validation and counseling that would help them understand that what was done to them was wrong and harmful and not the result of their own misconduct or personal imperfections. 
  • Once again, parents and other adults, uneducated in the warning signs that might have alerted them to or even prevented their child’s abuse by a trusted friend or mentor have been forced to choose between loyalty to and belief in a child or an institution.

We agree that the facts contained in these shameful Boy Scout files must be addressed and, where appropriate, used to hold accountable the individuals responsible for criminal acts and devastating decisions.

That said, Stop It Now! has no desire to vilify and bring down the Boy Scouts or any other institution that has tolerated and failed to report either a single instance or rampant child sexual abuse. 

But we insist that it stop now!

Every organization entrusted with the nurturing of children must open its eyes to the reality that child sexual abuse can occur wherever and whenever a child is put in a one-child-to-one-adult situation. 

  • Schools, churches, sports and other recreational organizations must accept accountability for what happens to children on their watch and understand that cover-ups, willful or otherwise, will not be tolerated.  
  • Parents must recognize the warning signs when the attention of a relative or family friend might be inappropriate.
  • Parents must discuss healthy sexuality and inappropriate behaviors with their children and show them that they will support them to share their worries and confide their concerns if they are being coerced into situations that make them uncomfortable.

This can only be accomplished with education and open communication that clearly sets out:

  • The values of each organization with respect to its child constituents.
  • The behaviors and circumstances that are incompatible with an abuse-free environment for children.
  • The warning signs that abuse may be occurring or about to occur.
  • The outlets, services, and support that are available to children, parents, bystanders and, yes, self-aware potential abusers wherever and whenever child sexual abuse is either a possibility or a reality.

When we do this together, we will truly be in a new place; environments where children are safer and where abuse is prevented.

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About Stop It Now!

Stop It Now! prevents the sexual abuse of children by mobilizing adults, families and communities to take actions that protect children before they are harmed. We provide support, information and resources so individuals and families around the world can keep children safe and create healthier communities. Read more at StopItNow.org.