An array of US local authorities — police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and town Boy Scout leaders among them — quietly shielded scoutmasters and others who allegedly molested children, according to a newly opened trove of confidential files compiled from 1959 to 1985.
The 14,500 pages of secret “perversion files” released on Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, show their maneuvers protected suspected sexual predators while victims suffered in silence.
The files document sex abuse allegations across the country, from a small town in the Adirondacks to central Los Angeles.
At a news conference on Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the full trove of files secret.
“You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children,” said Clark, who in 2010 won a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.
The files were shown to a jury in a 2010 Oregon civil suit that the Scouts lost, and the Oregon Supreme Court ruled the files should be made public.
The new files are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files, kept at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents and newspaper clippings about legal cases.
The 1959-1985 files show that they succeeded in keeping pedophiles out of Scouting leadership positions — the reason they were collated, but the files also document some troubling patterns.
In many instances — more than a third, according to the Scouts’ own count — police were not told about the alleged abuse and there is little mention in the files of concern for the welfare of Scouts who were allegedly abused by their leaders. However, there are numerous documents showing compassion for suspected abusers, who were often times sent to psychiatrists or pastors to get help.
In many instances, alleged abusers are kicked out of Scouting, but show up in jobs where they are once again dealing with youths.
One of the most startling revelations is the frequency with which attempts to protect Scouts from alleged molesters collapsed at the local level, at times in collusion with community leaders.
On the afternoon of Aug. 10, 1965, a distraught Louisiana mother walked into the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office. A 31-year-old scoutmaster, she told the chief criminal deputy, had raped one of her sons and molested two others.
Six days later, the scoutmaster sat down in the same station and confessed.
The decision was made not to pursue charges.
“This subject and Scouts were not prosecuted,” a Louisiana Scouts executive wrote to US headquarters, “to save the name of Scouting.”