There are now nearly 90,000 men who say they were sexually violated as young boys while participating in Boy Scouts of America programs. The absolute shame of it comes with the realization that with a little vigilance the ranks of victims would never have gotten that massive.
Back in the 1920s the organization began keeping a “red flag” or “perversion file” of scoutmasters who preyed on young scouts. Yet the ghastly and ever-growing list of names was kept secret. Police were not made aware and the secrecy allowed countless sex criminals to simply move away and weasel into other unsuspecting troops of boys. The horrific situation was first revealed some 100 years ago.
Today, the deadline for suspected victims to file compensation claims for past abuse has just passed and the organization says it is “deeply sorry” and “heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain.” Oh, really? Pardon my skepticism.
In 2010, there was a landmark lawsuit decided in an Oregon court which awarded a former Scout $19.9 million for the pain and suffering he endured. If the organization stepped up to admit its culpability back then perhaps the wave of lawsuits that followed would not have been so overwhelming. Perhaps the BSA would not have had to resort to filing bankruptcy last February, suffocated by the knowledge that its shameful house of secrets was crashing in.
As the Torts Committee overseeing the process said, “More sexual abuse claims will be filed in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy than all claims filed against the Catholic Church throughout the nation.”
Proof of the collision of criminal cultures becomes clear when you realize many scoutmasters in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were Catholic priests who, after Mass, would don the scoutmaster uniform and be let loose on a whole new hunting ground of young boys.
The current vice president of communications for the Boy Scouts of America is Effie Delimarkos. She emphasizes millions of boys have had wonderful experiences with the group. She says BSA filed for bankruptcy so it “can continue the mission of scouting.” That’s a pretty tone-deaf thing to say at this point in the organization’s history.
Yes, the BSA has adopted a policy of running criminal background checks on potential scoutmasters. It has instituted abuse prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and there is now a rule that two or more adult leaders must be present during activities with the boys. But the shocking revelations about this once revered motherhood-and-apple-pie institution has drastically slashed nationwide membership from a peak of about 4 million back in the ’70s to fewer than 2 million active Boy Scouts today.
The fact remains almost 90,000 men are claiming they were sexually abused under the BSA banner. The next steps could easily add to victims’ suffering. Each claim must be evaluated and judged by a committee that will determine what, if any, compensation is to be awarded. More will go to those who can demonstrate lasting damage. Also, still to be worked out: a formula for how much the Boy Scouts of America pays versus the amount their insurance company and local chapter’s insurance companies will be required to pay.
It is estimated the BSA has holdings of more than a billion dollars in vast parcels of real estate around the country, financial investments and an impressive collection of fine art that includes more than 65 Norman Rockwell paintings, many of which will easily fetch millions of dollars at auction. As a teenager Rockwell was hired by the BSA to create drawings for The Boy Scout’s Hike Book, and over the course of his career he frequently featured scouts in his work.
The Boys Scouts of America, founded in 1910, adopted this oath:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
Somewhere along the line those in charge of the organization lost sight of that oath. Today’s BSA executives owe it to victims to step up and direct their lawyers to expeditiously clean up this long-running horror show.
www.DianeDimond.com; e-mail to Diane@DianeDimond.com.