The concept and idea of Boy Scouts was originally brought to the United States in the early 1900s by newspaper man William Boyce who on one of his travels had seen it being done in England.
And so Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was created in the US in 1910, quickly becoming an integral part of American society, as American as apple pie. According to BSA’s annual report, there are approximately 889,000 registered Boy Scouts leaders and 2,283,000 members spread out across the United States.
Over the years and decades BSA has received many complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment. In order to track these allegations internally, BSA created a filing system in the 1920s. Members and leaders who were accused of sexual misconduct and abuse had their membership to BSA taken away and their names added to a file specifically outlining and documenting the abuse, titled the “Perversion Files”. And every year during registration time, BSA cross-referenced and checked all the registration names against their internal list to ensure anyone with a history or mark of sexual abuse against them was denied membership.
In 2014 the Boy Scouts of America hired Dr. Janet Warren to look into the allegations of sexual abuse within BSA going back to 1944 in order to audit all their files, determine how they handled it, catalogue and digitize the information. With a background and expertise in sexual offenses and offenders, Dr. Warren is also a professor at the University of Virginia where she teaches Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences.
After five years of painstaking work, the results of Dr. Warren’s research were revealed. According to her findings, the BSA files contain the names of nearly 8,000 (7,819 to be exact) perpetrators and the names of 12,254 victims of sexual abuse. This number is based on the number of victims who have come forward or spoken up; it is unclear how many others there might actually be.
Since this information came to light, BSA has publically stated they never knowingly allowed a sexual predator to come into close contact or work with young members. In addition, BSA has also said they have always reported allegations of sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities. But in the wake of the discovery of the Perversion Files, many people are finding it hard to believe much of what BSA is saying and they feel Boy Scouts America needs to be transparent and open about the files, the names of the abusers and their whereabouts.
What is the significance behind the Perversion Files? And why is it such a big deal if the Boy Scouts are saying they did everything within reason to ensure anyone accused of sexual misconduct was not welcome back?
It is significant because it illustrates BSA had knowledge and maybe even proof of children being sexually abused while in scouting and they kept these names hidden and secret and did little, if anything to seek justice for the victims.
Even now, today in the wake of these revelations, the organization continues to show hesitation when it comes to releasing the names of all the perpetrators. The names they have released so far (for instance in New York and New Jersey) have been as a result of court orders as they face lawsuits and litigation woes. Not exactly the actions of an organization determined to do right by its victims.
The findings by Dr. Warren are just the tip of the iceberg and it is anticipated more people will come forward with their own stories of sexual abuse. As the story surrounding the Perversion Files continues to unfold, we can only hope that Boy Scouts America will do the right thing and release all the names on the list without needing further prompting from the courts.
Following the passing of New York’s Child Victim’s Act, law firms who specialize in sexual abuse cases are urging anyone who has been a victim of abuse to come forward, no matter how much time has gone by.
If you or someone you know has been a victim, consider getting in touch with a lawyer to find out what your options are if you wish to press charges or file a lawsuit. Coming forward and facing such a traumatic event can be difficult and challenging but it can also be freeing and give you back control and power over your own life.