Editorial

Scouting nightmare

December 4, 2012 

The Boy Scouts say they now have safeguards in place to reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of sexual abuse of boys by adult Scout leaders. It’s about time. In dealing with pedophiles in its ranks, for too long the organization took an expedient, even cowardly course – not the “morally straight” conduct called for in the Scout Oath.

The story of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts has been coming out for years now. It accelerated in October, when detailed records kept by the Scouts were made public. Reportedly known within the organization as the “perversion files,” they covered 1965 to 1985 and involved allegations of sexual abuse against 1,200 Scout leaders.

It shouldn’t go unsaid that during those 20 years, tens of thousands of adult leaders volunteered at Boy Scout troops without incident. They provided positive examples in the lives of millions of boys. The abuse came at the hands of a relatively small number of men, and in many of the cases currently being reported, it took place decades ago.

Yet, as The N&O’s Bruce Siceloff reported in a powerful story on Sunday, the abuse was horrific and often unrelenting. It involved the worst sort of abuse of authority – the power a designated adult leader has over youths in his care, power that meant the abused boy was intimidated and forced to suffer in silence.

That was bad enough. But in dealing with abusers within its ranks the Boy Scouts commonly blacklisted them from further Scout positions but did not notify police or parents. In effect, these men were given a pass to continue abusing boys in other settings. Siceloff reported that the Scouts’ “ineligible volunteer” files include 16 North Carolina cases in which the adult was either dismissed from a troop or blacklisted by the BSA, with no notification of the authorities. Six of the 16 would later be arrested and convicted of sex crimes involving other children.

Then there’s this: The Boy Scouts resisted requiring background checks for all volunteers until 2008.

Some older Scout leaders say their decisions not to inform police or parents were justified, at least in part, by the thinking of the time, and by a desire to spare the victims embarrassment. Try telling that to the scouts who were victimized, or to the subsequent victims, those targeted by abusers who had been sent on their way by the Boy Scouts.

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