The Boy Scouts of America are taking the better-late-than-never approach to reporting suspected child abusers within their ranks to law enforcement.
The group announced over the weekend that it will scan through its records and report any suspected abusers who were previously overlooked to authorities, a move that comes just ahead of a court-ordered release of the so-called "perversion files," 20,000 pages of the organization's confidential records documenting suspected and confirmed sexual abuse within the group. The Scouts had previously said that it handled those matters in-house and that the files were kept confidential in order to encourage the reporting of questionable behavior among the organization's adult leadership.
According to the Associated Press, the names and identifying information of the victims and accusers are being redacted from the files. But others involved in the cases won't be so lucky, they explain:
The release means that alleged abusers, and the names of Scout leaders who failed to report them, will be made public soon in tens of thousands of pages of confidential documents—one of the largest troves of the files the BSA has ever been forced to produce.
The release will include cases from 1965 to 1985. Many states have no statutes of limitations for crimes committed against children when they were younger than 16, so the release of the files could very well lead to a wave of criminal and civil cases.
An initial report released by the Boy Scouts of America found more than 100 cases between 1970 to 1991 in which the organization appeared to attempt to hide the abuse. In a statement accompanying the report, quoted by the AP, the Scouts acknowledged some organizational wrong-doing:
In some instances we failed to defend Scouts from those who would do them harm ... there have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.
But some cases of suspected abuse have been wiped from the record, the AP notes, as files on suspected offenders who are either dead or older than 75 have been destroyed.