Last month confidential files were turned over for a lawsuit in Minnesota to bring attention to the problem of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America. These files, otherwise known as the “perversion files” or “ineligible volunteer,” span 1999 to 2008, which are more current than similar files presented in an Oregon case last year.
The attorney for one of the molested Scouts didn’t say specifically what the files might reveal, or how many former Scout leaders the files cover. However, the more than 1,200 files released in the Oregon case as well as the Scouts’ reluctance to turn them over suggests the files may be similarly voluminous and damaging.
Last year’s Oregon case unveiled a cover-up spanning multiple decades, with files from 1965 to 1985. The men involved in this case were typically barred from leadership roles but seldom turned over to law enforcement. The alleged pedophiles were also permitted to stay in the Scouts, due to pressure from community leaders and local Scout officials, as detailed in the files.
Journalist Patrick Boyle was one of the first to shed light on the Scouts’ burying of the abuse.
“What’s potentially powerful about these files is they can give us some idea of how big the problem has been in recent years, and might even give us an idea of whether the abuse prevention efforts by the Scouts have had any impact,” said Boyle, who currently works as the communications director at the nonprofit Forum for Youth Investment in Washington.
The public relations director for the Boy Scouts, Deron Smith, didn’t comment on whether the Scouts would try to stop the production of the files, but said he thinks keeping the files private would make people more likely to report abuse. However, when District Judge Elena Ostby from Ramsey County in Minnesota ordered the Scouts in January to produce the files, she also ordered the removal of information that might identify those named in the files. So, it is unclear how shedding light on the offenders would deter victims in the future. In fact, keeping hem secret and protecting the offenders is far more likely to keep victims from coming forward.
Even having the names removed, the release of new files might uncover new offenders and new institutions where abuse took place, empowering victims to pursue justice, said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and a longtime advocate for children victims of sex abuse.
“It can be a real wakeup call to survivors who have not come forward,” she said.
The plaintiff in the Minnesota case is recognized as John Doe 180. The lawsuit names the Boy Scouts of America, Northern Star Council and River Hills United Methodist Church in Burnsville, which sponsored his troop. Also named is Peter Stibal II, who is serving a 21-year prison sentence for molesting four Boy Scouts. The suit alleges that both the national and local organizations were aware of the abuse for decades and still allowed pedophiles within the organization. The suit seeks damages of more than $50,000.
“He is a courageous young man who really stepped forward in a way that resulted in Stibal having gone to prison,” Anderson said. “Hopefully through his actions other kids will be safer for it and the Boy Scouts better for it.”
With approximately 2.7 million youths in the Boy Scouts of America, it is imperative they ensure their policies and practices foster a safe, positive environment for those involved. The Scouts and other organizations that cater to our youth need to be vigilant in ferreting out those who seek to take advantage of participants. When an abuser is found among their ranks, it is not okay to cover it up and move the abuser to a new location in an effort to avoid bad publicity. This seems like common sense, but oftentimes leaders of large organizations make decisions based on money rather that the safety of the participants. Lawsuits like the ones in Oregon and in Minnesota help to shape policy and force those who perpetuate abuse to address it appropriately. The release of the perversion files will shed light on the Scouts’ misguided practices. This will hopefully act as a deterrent to others and assist victims of abuse in seeking justice. If you or anyone you know within Oregon has been a victim of sexual abuse, please contact The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C.