On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times published a trove of previously unreleased documents from the Boy Scouts of America that reveal the organization's records on volunteers and leaders charged with sexual misconduct toward scouts. The 1,200 files, from which the names and identifying information of the victims have been redacted, cover the group's history from 1985 to 1991.
The information can be found along with a database and two decades of files that the Oregon Supreme Court ordered released in November. The database contains an additional summary of some 3,200 cases opened between 1974 and 2005.
"Together, the material in the database represents the most complete accounting of suspected sexual abuse in the Scouts that has been made public," wrote Jessica Naziri and Nell Gram in the Times. "All of the material was obtained as a result of lawsuits against the Scouts by alleged abuse victims or by media organizations. The Boy Scouts kept the files for nearly a century for internal use only, to keep suspected abusers from rejoining."
The number of cases investigated in the six years prior to 1991 rivals the entire sum of cases prior to that point in the entire history of scouting. The numbers do not reflect the actual incidence of sexual abuse, however, but the increased awareness of sexual predation and a loosening of cultural taboos around reporting and prosecuting sexual abuse of minors.
The Times also cautioned that the numbers here may be incomplete because many cases never rise to the attention of the national office. The Scouts also confirm that a number of records have been destroyed over the years.
The newly published documents were used as evidence in a 1992 trial and served as a reference source to a series of stories done by the Times over the last year. The Times has detailed the Scouts' efforts to stymie investigations, shield abusers from prosecution and make it harder for local troops to perform criminal background checks on volunteers.
The national organization's unwillingness to act in many cases allowed abusers to continue to prey on boys, even after their crimes were known. Many abusers broke a code instituted in 1987 that forbids adults to be alone with scouts.
BSA now claims to be a leader in the field of protecting children. Since 2008, criminal background checks have been mandatory for volunteers. In 2010 the organization issued a mandate that any suspected abuse whatsoever must be reported to police.
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