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Sep 19 2012

Boy Scouts Abetted Child Molestation Too

It isn’t just the Catholic Church or Penn State that refused to report pedophiles to the police. Looks like the Boy Scouts of America did it for a long time as well, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. And it apparently happened hundreds of times.

Over two decades, the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.

A Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 has found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.

Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, “chronic brain dysfunction” and duties at a Shakespeare festival.

The details are contained in the organization’s confidential “perversion files,” a blacklist of alleged molesters, that the Scouts have used internally since 1919. Scouts’ lawyers around the country have been fighting in court to keep the files from public view…

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.

But remember, this organization is so moral and upstanding that it refuses to be polluted by the presence of atheist or gay teenagers. The BSA has earned the Mendacity Merit Badge.

48 comments

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  1. 1
    slc1

    It should be pointed out that the Boy Scouts is currently dominated by the Mormon Church, something else to query Romney the rat on.

  2. 2
    lofgren

    But remember, this organization is so moral and upstanding that it refuses to be polluted by the presence of atheist or gay teenagers.

    In light of this revelation, I think that is an unfair characterization of the situation.

    Clearly, the Boy Scouts have been diligently protecting gay and atheist teenagers from predation by Boy Scout leaders.

  3. 3
    Who Knows?

    So, has the blaming of the gays commenced yet?

  4. 4
    Chiroptera

    But remember, this organization is so moral and upstanding that it refuses to be polluted by the presence of atheist or gay teenagers.

    Looking at this and the Catholic Church scandal, it would appear that when the homophobes point out a link between homosexuality and child abuse, they are really talking about an inverse correlation.

  5. 5
    Pierce R. Butler

    slc1 @ # 1: … the Boy Scouts is currently dominated by the Mormon Church…

    Got one o’ them there cites on that?

  6. 6
    Bronze Dog

    Churches, football, and now the Boy Scouts. These are allegedly “wholesome” things in American culture. I’m glad I wasn’t attracted to any of them as a kid as well as glad my parents didn’t have any deep-seated need to push me into any of them. There was Sunday school, but that was pretty limited.

  7. 7
    steve oberski

    Cue the blaming of those devil inspired tempter boy scouts.

    http://www.paddydoyle.com/church-blames-devil-inspired-children-over-sex-abuse/

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/331892

  8. 8
    tbp1

    Not surprising at all, I’m afraid.

    I think that any organization which puts adult authority figures in contact with kids (Scouts, church, school, Little League, what have you) is going to attract a certain number of people who are there for all the wrong reasons. You can’t help that, probably, and I don’t think you can really blame the institutions.

    What’s important is what the organization does to minimize the possibility of abuse (rules about adults not being alone with kids, for example) and what they do when abuse does happen.

    Sadly, many organizations haven’t bothered with the former (at least not until recently), and flunked the latter, putting the welfare of the institution ahead of that of the abuse victims.

  9. 9
    JustaTech

    @tbp1: Which makes me wonder, why haven’t I ever heard about abuse in the Girl Scouts? I mean, it’s an organization for children, and involves humans, so I can’t imagine that it’s never happened. Do they cover it up better, or catch it earlier? (Genuine question, not trolling.)

  10. 10
    Scr... Archivist

    Pierce,

    The LDS sponsors a third of Boy Scout units and more than 15% of scout youth. This is the largest proportion of any denomination, and far larger than the largest secular sponsoring group. The Catholic Church sponsors another 7.6% of units and more than 10% of scouts.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54443303-78/church-scouts-lds-units.html.csp

  11. 11
    steve oberski

    @JustaTech

    Scrutationary Archivist may have answered your question, perhaps less religious involvement.

    And fewer males involved, who make up the bulk of child abusers.

  12. 12
    slc1

    Re Pierce Butler @ #5

    I have read, although I can’t remember where, that Mormons dominate the hierarchy of the BSA.

  13. 13
    Pierce R. Butler

    Scrutationary Archivist @ # 10 – your link, though interesting, does not show the stats you list, except for a passing “The LDS Church — the BSA’s largest sponsor …”.

    From context, it appears they mean that LDS “owns” more BSA “units” than does any other entity – which certainly implies significant influence on the central organization, but not necessarily the “domination” slc1 claims.

  14. 14
    Bronze Dog

    What’s important is what the organization does to minimize the possibility of abuse (rules about adults not being alone with kids, for example) and what they do when abuse does happen.

    Exactly the crux of the issue. Thank you.

    As always, we can expect apologists will show up and utterly miss that point and go on to talk about other institutions that wound up with the problem without noting that those other institutions reported the molesters/rapists to the police and cooperated with investigations instead of covering it up.

    A child being raped is horrible but not entirely unexpected when you have enough adults working with children. You can’t achieve 100% safety even with great vigilance. The negligence, cover ups, and apologia are what make it an outrageous scandal.

  15. 15
    holytape

    Religion can dominate boyscouts, but each troop is different. The troop I was in wasn’t religious. It was not sponsored by a church. However, about two weeks ago, my former scoutmaster got busted for having sex with a fourteen year old.

    (He had been out of scouting for 20 years. And there wasn’t even a hint of a problem when he was scout master. I can’t even think of a situation, knowing what I know now, that would have lead me to think that he was a predator. )

  16. 16
    anandine

    Well, the Boy Scouts of America was founded on the model of the British Boy Scout Association, which in turn was founded by Robert Baden-Powell as a way to take little boys out into the woods, so we shouldn’t be too surprised.

  17. 17
    Curt Cameron

    In more recent years, the BSA has done a good job of minimizing the risk. All adult leaders are required to be trained regularly about youth protection, and the centerpiece of this policy is the “two deep” rule. An adult is never allowed one-on-one time with a boy. In my experience with the Scouts in the last ten years or so, this policy is strictly followed (one reason is that the policy provides protection to the adults against false accusations).

    I speak from my experience being involved with the packs and troops for my two sons. Although I didn’t like their bigoted policies, I thought I could work within and it would soon change. However, I have now pulled my younger son out, as he was starting Boy Scouts instead of Cub Scouts, because recently the BSA had the opportunity to back off those policies, and they doubled down on them instead. So we’re out.

  18. 18
    grumpyoldfart

    My prediction:
    Not one offender will be arrested.

  19. 19
    cry4turtles

    Everyone who works with children should have to have local, state, and federal clearances. This includes BSA, GSA, clergy, daycare, schools, and my peers, early intervention providers. My fingerprints are on file at the FBI stating my clearances, and they have to be updated regularly.

  20. 20
    frog

    @9:

    Good question. Talking completely out of my hat:

    Women do not seem to be sexual abusers at the same rate as men. Whether this is because of some inherent or socially-trained tendency, or simple underreporting, I do not know.

    Consider also that women are less privileged in our society. If a man is accused of sexual assault, a significant percentage of idiots will step up to defend him. I suspect that does not happen when women commit such crimes. Where male sexual abusers may feel safe to infiltrate organizations that give them access, female sexual abusers may need to be more cautious in locating their targets.

    (Unless the woman has an additional privilege-carrying status, such as being a religious authority, c.f. the Magdalene asylums.)

  21. 21
    lofgren

    I suspect that does not happen when women commit such crimes.

    Depends entirely on whether or not a significant portion of men would “hit it,” given the chance. “Would totally hit it” = that kid is whiner who needs to appreciate the super awesome gift he has been given. “Would not hit” = that woman is a sick bitch who needs to be locked away forever.

  22. 22
    eidolon

    Pierece:

    This from Newsweek – cited in the wiki article:

    the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has adopted scouting as its official youth program. More than 400,000 Mormon boys participate in church-sponsored troops, 13 percent of scouting’s total.

    As for the role of the LDS church in the BSA:

    LDS businessman Wayne M. Perry received the Silver Buffalo at the national function. The award is the BSA’s highest national commendation.

    Brother Perry has experienced Scout leadership at all levels over the past 25 years — serving as a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Exploring Adviser, district chairman, president of the Chief Seattle Council, president of Scouting’s Western Region, and a member of the National Executive Board.

    Such service has earned Brother Perry numerous honors, including the regional Silver Antelope Award and the Heroism Award, which he received for heroic action during one of his Scout troop’s canoe trips, according to the BSA.

    Brother Perry is the CEO of Edge Wireless and serves on the board of directors of Baseball of Seattle Inc., the managing general partner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.

    Brother Perry is the latest in a long list of Church members to receive the Silver Buffalo that includes President Monson, along with Church presidents Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley.

    The BSA is the Mormon church youth program – for boys only with the Mormons, however.

  23. 23
    Scr... Archivist

    Pierce @13

    I should have been more clear. The statistics are from the sidebar at the left side of the article. Look for the line “Boy Scouts’ top sponsors”. That’s where I got those figures, cross-referenced with the membership statistics at BSA’s “At a glance” page. http://www.scouting.org/media/mediakit/ataglance.aspx

  24. 24
    jamessweet

    Hey, give ‘em credit for actually having a blacklist. If the Vatican were in charge, they would have just shipped the defenders to the next troop.

  25. 25
    skeptifem

    I wonder how many of these abusers were “called” to serve the LDS church by being boyscout leaders. I am betting that it is more than a few…

  26. 26
    Pierce R. Butler

    eidolon @ # 22 & Scrutationary Archivist @ # 23 – thanks for the follow-ups!

  27. 27
    ArtK

    @ tpb1 (and Bronze Dog)

    I work with at least one youth organization that has specific rules about supervision levels and so forth. One adult per 8 kids; never be alone with a kid that isn’t yours; have at least one adult who is the same gender of the kids being supervised. In fact, I’m one of the people who leads the training on this. It’s for the protection of the adults as well as the kids.

  28. 28
    baal

    My experience with the BSA and its history suggests that there is a certain amount of authoritarianism (emphases in hierarchy?) in the BSA as part of its design. Girl Scouts doesn’t seem to have that baked in and has a more communitarian feel. Cover ups are more likely to succeed or even be tried in the first place when you can have ‘orders’.

  29. 29
    timgueguen

    lofgren is correct. Check the comments for any story about say a female teacher having sex with an underage teenage boy and you’re likely to see a comment about it being every boy’s dream.

  30. 30
    fifthdentist

    You mean to tell me that out of thousands of adult men who volunteer to give up their weekends to spend nights out in the woods with boys some of them are going to be pedophiles?
    No fucking way! Who could have seen that one coming?

  31. 31
    billgascoyne

    When BSA’s national headquarters moved from New Brunswick, New Jersey to Irving, Texas in 1979, the official reason was something like, to be located more centrally in the country. The widely cited and more cynical “unofficial” reason was that Salt Lake City would have been too obvious.

  32. 32
    Area Man

    @tbp1: Which makes me wonder, why haven’t I ever heard about abuse in the Girl Scouts? I mean, it’s an organization for children, and involves humans, so I can’t imagine that it’s never happened. Do they cover it up better, or catch it earlier? (Genuine question, not trolling.)

    What the BSA, Catholic Church, and college football all have in common is that 1) they’re run exclusively by men, 2) they’re seen as morally upright institutions to be venerated, and 3) their leaders are taken as authority figures. The problem these things cause is not so much that they’re a magnet for pedophiles (though that may have something to do with it), but that there’s a tendency to cover-up crimes and protect the inner membership. The leaders are highly invested in preserving their reputations and the privileges that go with it. (Yeah, I know: Oops!)

    The Girl Scouts don’t fit #1 and not really #3 either. Girl Scouting takes place at a younger age than Boy Scouting and has never been taken as seriously as an institution. You never hear about some woman who made the female equivalent of Eagle Scout, whatever that is. And most importantly, pedophilia is vastly more common among men.

  33. 33
    slc1

    Re timgueguen @ #29

    This is a fact that any prosecutor considering charging a woman with statutory rape against a teenage boy has to consider. The unfortunate fact is that, if the woman is young and attractive, like, say, Debra Lafave, who was a school teacher in Florida who had a sexual relationship with a 14 year old student, all too many men on a jury would think, why couldn’t I have had an opportunity like that when I was 14 (Ms. Lafave, who was 22 at the time, was hotter then last July).

  34. 34
    jba55

    @25: As I understand it (I was involved in Scouting as an early teen in the 90′s, in an LDS troop) all LDS scoutmasters are “called”. It was also simply assumed that boys would join, neither I nor any of my friends were asked if we wanted to, we were just signed up when we came of age.

  35. 35
    tbp1

    @33: There is a scene in Six Feet Under (haven’t seen it in years so details will be sketchy and I’m open to correction) where the mother of the Peter Krause character is talking to her aging-hippie sister about a friend of said sister who had sex with the lad when he was young and there was a significant age disparity. The mother refers to it as “molesting;” the sister says “He was a horny teenager who thought he’d died and gone to Heaven.”

  36. 36
    tacitus

    There is a very good, if disturbing article in the New Yorker that’s very relevant to the problems institutions can have when dealing with child molestation:

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/09/24/120924crat_atlarge_gladwell

    It goes a long way in explaining why it’s often so hard to root out child molesters and pedophiles and deal with them. No it doesn’t excuse coverups or negligence where the evidence is strong or the accusations widespread, but it’s always worth knowing that the majority of molesters are extremely clever and cautious when selecting their victims, and extremely good at covering their tracks and winning the friendship sympathy of the very people who are closest to their victims.

    In one case, parents of children being taught by a child molester vociferously defended him against the accusations said that there is absolutely no way someone as kind and generous as he would do such a thing.

    I know someone who refused to dump her boyfriend after he actually came out and admitted to being a child molester, and she was even willing to give up on her closest friend over him. At the time, I just couldn’t believe how she could do such a thing, but having read this article, I see how it probably happened. You don’t get to be a successful child molester without a lot of charm and cunning. That’s what makes them so dangerous, I guess.

  37. 37
    tacitus

    What the BSA, Catholic Church, and college football all have in common is that 1) they’re run exclusively by men, 2) they’re seen as morally upright institutions to be venerated, and 3) their leaders are taken as authority figures. The problem these things cause is not so much that they’re a magnet for pedophiles (though that may have something to do with it), but that there’s a tendency to cover-up crimes and protect the inner membership.

    What they have in common is opportunity. They all place adults in close proximity to children, and those adults are automatically assigned a great deal of trust and authority by the parents. They also have a lot of children to choose from, and can take their time selecting and grooming potential victims to find out which of them are most susceptible to their advances. Frequent physical contact, like horseplay or exercise programs also helps to get them closer to the kids without drawing suspicions (less so in the Catholic Church, but there I suspect the unimpeachable nature of the priesthood helps to compensate.

    If you read the article I link in my above comment, it also says that in many cases, a combination of the perps talking their way out of the charges (as Sandusky did) and other responsible adults being in denial about their colleague and friend contribute to the problems. No doubt that is exacerbated in close knit groups and communities that have a reputation to protect. Not only do they have a hard time believing their friend could do such evil things, they don’t want to believe it because of the harm it would do to their own and their organization’s reputation.

  38. 38
    Chris Hallquist

    Damn. Can someone fill me in on how I go about returning my Eagle badge and medals and whatnot, to make it all official like?

  39. 39
    jws1

    Since it appears that the BSA is dominated by Protestants, will this mean that they will stop behaving as if this shit only happens when Catholics are in charge?

  40. 40
    Erp

    First clear up a minor point, the US Girl Scout equivalent of Eagle is Gold Star (it use to be First Class and before that something else).

    Second in the BSA each chartering organization (e.g., each LDS church with a Scout troop) has a representative to the local council and it is these representatives that choose the group of volunteers (from the same representatives) that actually direct the council and from the council to national. The more chartered units (not the more scouts) the more representation. http://usscouts.org/aboutbsa/bsaorg.asp

    The Girl Scouts have a very different setup. There are no chartering organizations (some groups may sponsor a troop by providing support but it gives them no automatic clout in council decisions). Representatives to the council and to national are elected by the scouts (14 and over) and adult scouters (e.g., leaders) from amongst the scouts/scouters (i.e., any registered member over 14 [the BSA requires representatives to be at 21 or older]). (An example of one delegation http://www.gssjc.org/convention2011/delegate.cfm)

    BTW it looks like the next GSUSA national convention in 2014 will be in Salt Lake City, an interesting location for a group that is oft maligned as too liberal (it is actually quite mixed).

  41. 41
    ibbica

    Damn. Can someone fill me in on how I go about returning my Eagle badge and medals and whatnot, to make it all official like?

    “Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges”
    http://eaglebadges.tumblr.com/

    (includes a ‘submit your letter to the BSA’ link)

  42. 42
    democommie

    I was in the scouts far enough back that “fire starting” with a flint and steel was considered liberal! REAL men can start a fire with a firebow or just ask GOD to smite the sticks!

    If we had any predatious scoutmasters I managed to avoid them.

  43. 43
    nmiddlebrook

    I’m not one to post often, I tend to lurk, but this article makes me so angry I have to say something.

    It makes me sick to read news like this. It’s unfortunate that an organization that has done so much good for so many people can be run by such corrupt and lecherous people. I’m sure there are others on this blog who were Boy Scouts as youth and had excellent experiences. I went through from the beginning of Cub Scouts to becoming an Eagle Scout in 2000 and still hold my experiences within our troop as ones that shaped who I am today. I was apparently very fortunate to have scout leaders and parents who took the Boy Scout ideas and turned it into something beneficial for the kids.

    After years of reading about others’ experiences and the constant press about the organization, I now realize how much our troop leaders downplayed the religions aspect of the Boy Scouts (I was raised catholic myself, but by the time I reached Eagle Scout had pretty much become the atheist I am today), and focused more on fostering good leaders, helping develop useful skills, and a respect for other people and the natural world. In hindsight, I now realize how rare my experience seems to have been, and little oddities about other troops that we would meet at camporees and jamborees have made sense in recent years. Scouting is really something that depends on the individual troops’ strength, not the organization.

    That being said, it still disgusts me to read things like this, and there is a distinct disjunction between the kinship I share with other Eagle Scouts, and the feeling of accomplishment that once instilled in me, and what I ethically cannot help but feel now about being currently affiliated with such an organization.

    I still work with the Scouts on occasion as a merit badge instructor and was required to go through a “Safe Scouting” sort of training (apologies as I do not remember the exact name of the program). Truthfully, it was an hour of my life watching horribly produced videos about proper scout leader conduct; never being alone with a child with no other leader present, securing permission for everything under the sun, proper dress and privacy issues, etc… It was a complete joke and really came across as a ham handed effort to combat a much larger problem.

    I truthfully don’t think I will ever put my own son into the Scouting program, despite the fact he will be of age next year to begin Cub Scouts. It’s the kind of thing where if I wasn’t the Pack Leader myself(Cub Scout equivalent of a Troop Leader, I’m not sure I could ever be comfortable with him participating in such a program anymore. It’s a shame, for those who are in my position to now see the organization for its true colors, for those kids who will never be able to have such experiences in life (the good ones I had through Scouting), and for the organization’s leadership in general to be such cowards that they would even fathom covering up the very abuse of the boys they were put in place to support.

    Sorry for the small novel, but this has been brewing for some time. I’d be happy to talk more about this if anyone has any questions. Thanks for the excellent blog Ed, keep up the great work!

  44. 44
    Canadian Yankee

    Pierce @13

    Also, both the President of the LDS Church and the general president of the LDS Church youth organization get automatic seats on the BSA National Executive Board.

  45. 45
    frog

    lofgren@21 and other replies:

    Yes, but note that in both scenarios, no one is denying the events took place.

    Contrast with, for instance, Jerry Sandusky. There are still plenty of people who maintain that all the charges are fabricated.

    If someone accused an adult woman of being naked in a locker room shower with an adolescent boy, I have to wonder if anyone would just flat-out deny it ever happened.

  46. 46
    lofgren

    @frog

    I think it is a distinction without a difference. The only reason Sandusky’s supporters have to deny that anything happened at all is because a grown man touching a boy is automatically vile in our society, while a grown woman touching a boy is conditionally vile depending on the attractiveness of the woman. There are a number of ways the scenario could have played out differently:

    • If Sandusky was a woman, and the victim a boy, as you suggest supporters would allow that something happened but would suggest the boy should be grateful.

    • If Sandusky was a woman and the victim a girl, supporters would allow that something happened. If both partners were conventionally attractive, supporters would request pics.

    • If Sandusky was a man and the victim a girl, supporters would allow that something happened, but it was probably the girl’s fault for leading him on. Unless Sandusky was black and the victim white, in which case only a lynching would do proper justice.

    • If Sandusky self-identified as gay instead of straight, he would have no supporters, people would assume that something happened even if he was never caught in the shower with anybody, and there would be a lot of people saying he should never be allowed in the locker room or near children to begin with.

  47. 47
    Pierce R. Butler

    Canadian Yankee @ # 44 – That goes a lloonngg way toward substantiating what slc1 said in # 1. :-P

  48. 48
    Area Man

    What they have in common is opportunity. They all place adults in close proximity to children, and those adults are automatically assigned a great deal of trust and authority by the parents.

    Yes, but this is true of lots of institutions, like the Girl Scouts or public schools, and they don’t all have major child abuse scandals. Also, there’s nothing about the Catholic Church or especially college football per se that creates access to victims. You can be a Catholic priest or football coach and never interact with children. So there must be something else going on.

    What makes these scandals so scandalous is not that abuse happened one time, but that it happened many times, for many years, even after responsible people were well aware of it. That’s because the people in charge chose to hush it up, thereby becoming enablers. There are of course cases of teachers committing sexual abuse in public schools, but it’s unthinkable that the principal and other teachers would get together to cover it up. So those incidents are isolated, the perps prosecuted, and there’s no big scandal. I contend that this is due to differences between the institutions in question, including the whole male-domination part, and not just opportunity for the perps.

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