On Thursday, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of 20,000 pages of confidential Boy Scouts of America records known as ‘perversion files’ that documented suspected and/or confirmed sexual abuse by its leaders and volunteers.
The six cartons of documents are to be redacted before the files are made public to protect the identities of victims and complainants and others. The documents were part of the evidence in a 2010 civil trial where an Oregon jury found the Boy Scouts liable in pedophilia and ordered the organization to pay $20 million in damages.
Attorney Kelly Clark, who represented the abuse victims, said the files proved that from 1965 to 1985, in the period covered by the submitted documents, each and every year, at least 60 Boy Scout leaders or volunteers were found molesting children.
Attorney Paul Mones, another lawyer for the victims said, “The released documents represent the largest and most comprehensive data collection system on child sexual abuse maintained by an organization in the nation … Not even the Catholic Church has such a system.”
The Boy Scouts of America had fought tooth and nail to keep the documents from being made public. They argued that the files were “maintained to keep out individuals whose actions are inconsistent with the standards of Scouting, and Scouts are safer because those files exist.”
Opposing the decision to make the records public, the organization said in a statement that strict confidentiality of the files, “encourages prompt reporting of questionable behavior, removes the fear of retribution and ensures victims and their families have the privacy they deserve.” The Boy Scouts also mentioned that publication of the records could have a “chilling effect on the reporting of abuse.”
The lawyer of the victims, Kelly Clark said, “Child abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems are its putrid breeding ground.”
Since 2007, at least 35 individuals have courageously come forward and lodged claims of child sexual abuse against the Boy Scouts of America. The abuse cases spread across 11 states. Members of the organization are mostly boys aged between eight and seventeen.
To combat growing concern over widespread perversion, the Boy Scouts enhanced the screening of adult volunteers making computerized criminal background checks mandatory in 2003 for new volunteers, and in 2008 for existing volunteers.