Report: Boy Scouts Covered Up Abuse

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 16 2012 1:20 PM

Report: Boy Scouts Helped Cover Up Cases of Sexual Abuse for Decades

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A Boy Scout holds flags at a cemetery in Louisville

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Hundreds of alleged child molesters were not reported to police by Boy Scouts of America officials over two decades, often giving the abusers a chance to quietly resign rather than risk a hit to the organization’s reputation. The Los Angeles Times reviewed 1,600 of the Boy Scouts’ confidential “perversion files” dated from 1970 to 1991 and found more than 500 cases in which officials learned about abuse directly. In around 80 percent of those cases, there is no record of the Scouts reporting the claims of abuse to authorities and in more than 100 cases there seems to be clear evidence of efforts to hide the abuse. Worst of all, there are clear signs that some of the abusers went on to hurt other children.

Lawyers for the Boy Scouts have been working hard to keep the “perversion files,” which the organization has used since 1919, out of the public eye. Yet as more of them become public, the Boy Scouts could soon face a wave of litigation across the country, although in many states statutes of limitation will prevent the victims from suing.  Boy Scout officials insist they’ve improved their internal process to protect children, noting that since 2010 they require officials to report even the suspicion of abuse to authorities.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.