Photo by Benjmin Kushner
More than 12,000 victims and almost 8,000 perpetrators: that is the magnitude of the sexual assault scandal that has rocked the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). A recent report that highlights the organization’s extensive history of sexual assault accusations, and failures to address the issue, have brought on an onslaught of litigation.
Earlier this year, Janet Warren, a University of Virginia professor hired by the BSA to investigate their history of sexual assault, came forward with her findings which alleged that between the years 1944 and 2006, there had been 12,254 victims and 7,918 perpetrators of sexual assault in the Boy Scout’s ranks. These numbers were determined after Warren spent five years reviewing the “perversion files:” documents kept by the BSA which indicate people who are no longer permitted to be involved in the organization due to “reasonable accusations of child sexual abuse,” according to a May 16 article in the Los Angeles Times.
“As shocking as it was that it was happening in an institution that you feel is going to be a safe place for your son to do the activities available in scouting, it didn’t really surprise me,” Assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 457 Nick Napoli said. “These things happen in organizations that are entrusted with children’s wellbeing.”
As the years have gone on, Boy Scouts has increased precautions in their youth protection program to try and prevent this sort of abuse. They have implemented policies such as two-deep leadership which requires every adult to have at least one other adult in the room when dealing with scouts. They also require all parents and volunteers who participate in overnight campouts to be checked for a criminal history related to sexual misconduct. They also have to take an online youth protection course which informs leaders of the signs that a scout has been abused and instructs them to contact law enforcement if any scouts show these signs.
“I think it was only going on because of a lack of understanding that it was going on in the first place. It was too secret to be dealt with,” sophomore Eagle Scout Isaac Hill said. “But now that it is out and now that people understand that it is going on, I think the regulations that we’ve put in place do accurately deal with this issue and make boy scouts overall a safer place.”
Despite the measures that are now in place to protect scouts, over 400 lawsuits have been brought against the Boy Scouts since 2010 when the Los Angeles Times released certain parts of the “perversion files.” These lawsuits allege that the organization failed to effectively notify the community and law enforcement of suspected perpetrators and that they did not have measures in place to ensure the safety of their youth. There were even times that Boy Scouts allowed alleged perpetrators to be quietly transferred to a different troop or to rejoin the organization after they had been implicated in child sexual assault, according to a May 27 Time Magazine article.
Boy Scouts has responded to these claims, noting that while there may have been coverups in some local scouting districts, Warren’s investigation found no evidence of a coverup by Boy Scouts at a national level. They also point to the fact that as of 2013, everyone implicated in sexual assault in Boy Scouts has been reported to law enforcement.
Troops based nearby such as Troop 457 are less at risk for sexual assault problems due to the numerous, highly active adult leaders who actively enforce the two-deep leadership rule which forbids any adult from being alone with a scout, Napoli said.