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'Perversion files'

November 5, 2012 12:10 am

HOW REMARKABLY SAD that the story of a former football coach and serial predator of young boys could be dwarfed by more such ugly news, that of the Boy Scouts "perversion files."

In the case of Jerry Sandusky, the public learned in graphic detail how an individual abuser can set himself up in a position of trust and devote his adult life to satisfying his carnal lusts, while those who could have stopped him look the other way. To protect an institution and individual legacies, the see-no-evil cabal imposed life sentences of emotional and psychological ill health on numerous young boys.

Now multiply that by the 5,000 men and sprinkling of women who between 1947 and 2005 were listed in the 15,000-page "perversion files" kept secret until recently by the Boy Scouts of America. Thanks to the investigative work of the Los Angeles Times and the tenacity of an Oregon law firm, these documents are hush-hush no longer.

This revelation is hard to grasp given its volume and time span and the generations of men who have the Boy Scouts to thank for the solid foundations on which they built their lives. How incomprehensible. Having watched the Roman Catholic Church scandal explode over the past decade, Scout officials could plainly see the costly fallout of such revelations.

The Boy Scouts have endured their share of controversy for their refusal to accept gays, and perhaps now we have the back story that helps explain the organization's stout defense of that position. But there must be no confusing the gay lifestyle that is slowly gaining acceptance in the United States with the crimes committed by men who abuse boys.

The Boy Scouts scandal provides more evidence than one cares to consider about the insidiousness of pedophiles and their detestable behavior. But as the Penn State case makes clear, an equal share of culpability is borne by those who choose to ignore firsthand or otherwise incontrovertible evidence of abuse. The Boy Scouts files contain repeated instances of adults willfully covering up molestation incidents as perpetrators were allowed to resign or prosecutors declined to file charges. The sickos often resurfaced in other troops--or quietly camouflaged themselves elsewhere in society.

A Louisiana Scout executive wrote to national headquarters in 1965: "This subject and Scouts were not prosecuted to save the name of Scouting." In Pennsylvania in 1972, a Scout executive recommended that a case against a suspected abuser be dropped, writing: "If it don't stink, don't stir it."

The files list 103 cases statewide in Virginia, including instances over the past 20 years in which adults were banned from Scout troops on suspicion of sex abuse in Woodbridge, Warrenton, Arlington, Springfield, Dunn Loring, Manassas, Vienna, and Alexandria. No cases were reported in the Fredericksburg area.

Scouting has much work to do before it can emerge from this crisis of trust. Step one must be a transparent effort to prevent future abuse. The BSA website describes in detail its belated prevention efforts through its Youth Protection Program. But there is no reference to its other enormous duty--seeking out and supporting victims who need and deserve assistance. Sadly, the Scouts have the repentance blueprints of various other organizations to borrow and improve upon.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.