For decades, the Boy Scouts Of America (BSA) have been covering up at least hundreds of child sex abuse cases by Scout leaders, often if not mostly without notifying police, or the boys’ parents, and allowing offenders to return to the Scouts, often to restart their abuse anew. Now, as the BSA fears, a century-old set of “pervision files,” dating back as far as 1919, may become public, despite the Scouts attempts in court to keep the documents confidential.
Calling the files “a blacklist of alleged molesters,” who “were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, ‘chronic brain dysfunction’ and duties at a Shakespeare festival,” the L.A. Times in yet another exposé, details their examination of over 1600 files from 1970 to 1991, and “has found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.”
As The Times reported in August, the blacklist often didn’t work: Men expelled for alleged abuses slipped back into the program, only to be accused of molesting again. Now, a more extensive review has shown that Scouts sometimes abetted molesters by keeping allegations under wraps.
In the majority of cases, the Scouts learned of alleged abuse after it had been reported to authorities. But in more than 500 instances, the Scouts learned about it from boys, parents, staff members or anonymous tips.
In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.
In 1982, a Michigan Boy Scout camp director who learned of allegations of repeated abuse by a staff member told police he didn’t promptly report them because his bosses wanted to protect the reputation of the Scouts and the accused staff member.
“He stated that he had been advised by his supervisors and legal counsel that he should neutralize the situation and keep it quiet,” according to a police report in the file.
That same year, the director of a Boy Scout camp in Virginia wrote to the Scouts’ top lawyer, asking for help dealing with a veteran employee suspected of a “lifelong pattern” of abuse that had not been reported to police.
“When a problem has surfaced, he has been asked to leave a position ‘of his own free will’ rather than risk further investigation,” the director wrote. “The time has come for someone to make a stand and prevent further occurrences.”
There is no indication the Scouts took the matter to law enforcement.
In 1976, five Boy Scouts wrote detailed complaints accusing a Pennsylvania scoutmaster of two rapes and other sex crimes, according to his file. He abruptly resigned in writing, saying he had to travel more for work.
“Good luck to you in your new position,” a top troop representative wrote back. He said he was accepting the resignation “with extreme regret.”
The extensive Times article, which includes images culled from the actual files, details one case of a top Scout leader who ultimately was convicted of abusing 20 young boys.
With 50 years in Scouting, Arthur W. Humphries appeared to be a model leader, winning two presidential citations and the Scouts’ top award for distinguished service — the Silver Beaver — for his work with disabled boys in Chesapeake, Va.
Unknown to most in town, he also was a serial child molester.
A few months after Humphries’ arrest in 1984, local Scouting official Jack Terwilliger told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that no one at the local Scout council had had suspicions about Humphries.
But that was not true. Records in Humphries’ file show that six years earlier, Terwilliger had ordered officials to interview a Scout who gave a detailed account of Humphries’ repeated acts of oral sex on him.
“He then told me to do the same and I did,” the 12-year-old boy said in a sworn statement in 1978.
Officials not only failed to report Humphries’ alleged crime to police, records show — they alsogave him a strong job reference two years later, when he applied for a post at a national Scouting event.
“I believe the attached letters of recommendation and the newspaper write-up will give you a well rounded picture of Art,” Terwilliger wrote. “If selected, I am sure that he would add much to the handicapped awareness trail at the 1981 Jamboree.”
Humphries continued to work with Scouts and molested at least five more boys before police, acting on a tip, stopped him in 1984. He was convicted of abusing 20 Boy Scouts, some as young as 8, and was sentenced to 151 years in prison.
By then, one of the Scouts he’d abused a decade earlier had become his accomplice. He was convicted of molesting many of the same boys at Humphries’ house.
Currently, the L.A. Times has had access only to 21 years of files, but there are decades more of files, including possibly thousands more cases, that a court may make public.
About 1,200 “ineligible volunteer” files dating from 1965 to 1985 are set to be publicly released under a June order by the Oregon Supreme Court, including some already reviewed by the newspaper.
Those files played a key role in a 2010 civil trial in which an Oregon jury found the Boy Scouts liable in a 1980s pedophile case and ordered the organization to pay nearly $20 million in damages.
The files will be released within three to four weeks, said Paul Mones, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff in the Oregon case.
In the wake of revelations about systemic child sex abuse within the Catholic Church and the recent Penn State sex abuse scandal, the files threaten to damage the reputation of one of America’s most trusted institutions.
The Scouts have been the target of public outcry, coming under fire for not allowing gay people into the organization at any level. A ten-year old boy to a 40-year old Scout Leader may be kicked out or fired if it becomes known they are gay.
In a July email conversation related to a story about the Scouts’ re-affirmation of its policy of banning gay people, Boy Scouts of America Director of Public Relations Deron Smith told The New Civil Rights Movement that their policy had “no relation” to an Oregon Supreme Court’s decision days before, which, according to a report by Reuters, “ordered the release of 20,000 pages of confidential Boy Scouts of America records dubbed the ‘perversion files’ documenting suspected or confirmed sexual abuse by its leaders and volunteers.”
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