While on my drive to California, many of the hotels I stayed at provided guests with copies of USA Today and the major story one day was a massive lawsuit brought by 800 people against the Boy Scouts of America for sexual abuse, with the accusations spanning nearly eight decades and covering almost every state.
Lawyers began collecting the accounts this spring as they prepared a suit, which they filed on behalf of a client who alleges his former scoutmaster plied him with drugs and alcohol before repeatedly sexually abusing him.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, the lawyers said they have nearly 800 other clients who were abused while Scouts. The suit says at least 350 abusers do not appear in the Boy Scouts’ disciplinary files, citing that as evidence that the organization has not adequately vetted its volunteers and hidden the extent of the sexual abuse scandal.
The law firm’s client list, obtained by USA TODAY, alleges molestation ranging from fondling to sodomy. Some of the men accused by former Scouts ended up in court or were punished administratively for similar crimes, sometimes many years after their alleged assaults. About two dozen of the men were kicked out of Scouting for abuse. USA TODAY is naming only those who fit one or more of those categories.
The accused tend to be men of stature in their communities, most of whom volunteered as troop leaders or assistant troop leaders. They were police officers and members of the military, teachers and a mayor, doctors and a child psychologist.
Their prominent positions offered them easy access to children. They allegedly caught their prey in tents and homemade shelters in the wilderness, in their cars shuttling young boys back and forth to Scouting activities, and sometimes in the children’s own homes.
Their access was unique to the Boy Scouts itself – at giant Jamborees and secretive Order of the Arrow ceremonies, isolated summer campgrounds and well-used church recreation halls. They’re accused of trading on the youth organization’s all-American wholesomeness to assuage parents who might not otherwise have allowed young boys to be alone with adult men.
You can be sure that for every person who has come forward, there are many more who are reluctant to speak out.
The article highlights the case of one adult troop leader Gary Stroup.
He was banned from Boy Scouts after being accused of groping 11-year-old boys in 1989. Yet he remained a member of the National Eagle Scout Association, according to a letter Boy Scouts sent to his council two years later, reminding them Stroup was ineligible as a Scout volunteer.
Stroup was indicted on seven counts of “gross sexual imposition” after the abuse allegations in 1989. Shortly after he was acquitted in early 1990, his lawyer again appealed his Boy Scout membership revocation and submitted 41 letters of support, including from the principal of Avondale Elementary School where he worked, the local scoutmaster and camp director, the parents of Scouts and the pastor of his Methodist church.
Another accuser, who is among the legal firm’s new clients, said that at the time the scoutmaster and camp director lobbied for Stroup to remain in the Scouts, Stroup was abusing him. From roughly 1988 to 1990, the former Scout said, he was molested at least 100 times while on camping trips, in Stroup’s car, at home, at church and at school. He said Stroup threatened that his brother and sister would be put into foster care if he ever told anyone.
In 2005, Stroup was indicted on multiple counts of sexually abusing children at two schools where he had worked. He entered a plea on two counts of gross sexual exploitation and was sentenced to four years in prison.
This is the problem with organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Catholic church. While many if not most of the people in those organizations are committed to providing wholesome experiences for young people, the very structure of these organizations tend to be magnets for abusers. If someone has pedophilic tendencies, they would undoubtedly be attracted to organizations that offer relatively unsupervised access to large numbers of young people.
It is up to the organizations to recognize this danger and put in place sufficient safeguards to vet the people, monitor the behavior of the adults, quickly act on reports of abuse, punish the abusers, and report them to the authrotiies. But what we have seen in both these organizations is a tendency to look away, deny, or cover up abuses. It seems like they were driven more by wanting to avoid any scandal than protecting the interests of the young people who were entrusted into their care. That is what is inexcusable.
On a related note, one of the highest ranking abusers in the Catholic church, cardinal George Pell has just lost his appeal against his conviction of sexual abuse for which he was jailed for six years. Pell was one of the pope’s closest advisors. But pope Francis has not as yet defrocked Pell, something that his critics have called for. But Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has said that Pell was likely to be stripped of his Order of Australia honor.