There's long been talk of Boy Scout leaders molesting young boys. When I was growing up in California, our town was hit by the scandal of one such "leader,"and I remember people saying they didn't believe it. he was a Scout leader. He couldn't do that.
But he did.
Now, in Oregon, Kelly Clark, a lawyer for a man who says he was molested in the 1980s by a Scout leader, has obtained about 1,000 Boy Scouts sex files and entered them into evidence at a trial that began last week. He says the Boy Scouts of America have long kept an extensive archive of secret documents that chronicle the sexual abuse of young boys by Scout leaders--they've even nicknamed them the "perversion files"--and now those files might be offered into evidence and show just how the Boy Scouts have responded to sex abuse by Scout leaders.
At the start of the trial, Clark recited the Boy Scout oath and the promise to obey Scout law to be "trustworthy" as he presented six boxes of documents that he said will show "how the Boy Scouts of America broke that oath." He held up folder after folder he said contained reports of abuse from around the country, telling the jury the efforts to keep them secret may have actually set back efforts to prevent child abuse nationally, and adding, "The Boy Scouts of America ignored clear warning signs that Boy Scouts were being abused."
Charles Smith, attorney for the Boy Scouts, says the files were kept under wraps because they "were replete with confidential information." He told the jury the files had helped national scouting leaders weed out sex offenders, especially repeat offenders who may have changed names or moved in order to join another local scouting organization. "They were trying to do the right thing by trying to track these folks," he said.
Clark is seeking $14 million in damages on behalf of a 37-year-old man who was sexually molested in the early 1980s in Portland by an assistant Scoutmaster, Timur Dykes. Dykes was convicted three times between 1983 and 1994 of sexually abusing boys, most of them Scouts.
While there have been many lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America over charges of sex abuse, this is one of the few times the "perversion files"will be allowed into evidence. The Boy Scouts fought to keep the files out of the Portland trial, or at least keep them confidential, but the Oregon Supreme Court rejected their argument that opening the files could damage the lives and reputations of people not a party to the lawsuit.
Oddly enough, also named in the lawsuit was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because the Mormons acted as a charter organization, or sponsor, for the local Boy Scouts troop that included the victim.
The church has settled its portion of the case.
But the Portland case centers on whether the Boy Scouts of America did enough to protect boys from Dykes. Gordon McEwen, a Mormon bishop who served as head of the Scout troop, confronted Dykes after receiving a report of abuse by the mother of one boy in the troop in January 1983. In a video deposition played for the jury, McEwen said Dykes admitted abusing 17 boys.
McEwen said he had contacted the parents of all 17 boys, as well as the boys themselves, but none of them would confirm any abuse. Dykes was arrested in 1983 and pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse, received probation and was ordered to stay away from children. But, according to Kelly Clark Dyles was allowed to continue with his scouting activities until he was arrested in July 1984 during a routine traffic stop while he was driving a van full of Scouts on a camping trip.
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, wouldn't comment directly on the Portland case but says the Boy Scouts of America has worked hard on awareness and prevention efforts, including background checks, and said, "[u]nfortunately, child abuse is a societal problem and there is no fail-safe method for screening out abusers."
True, perhaps, but you certainly don't keep secret files on those accused of molestation, and you don't lest those who plead guilty to even attempted molestation back into the Scouts.
As a side note, I cannot ignore the irony that three of the most homophobic groups in this country, and the world, the Boy Scouts, the Mormon church, and the Catholic church, are accused of knowing about alleged molestation of young boys, and then doing very little, or nothing, to stop it.