Like many clergy, Scout leaders are often thought of as selfless men, generously sharing their time and talent with youngsters.
Like many clergy, they often have seemingly legitimate reasons to be alone with kids.
Like many clergy, Scout leaders belong to a rigid, male-dominated, hierarchical group.
Like many clergy, they are often seen as ‘good influences’ on kids, especially troubled kids.
Like many clergy, they often wear decorated uniforms that enhance their seemingly superior images.
Like many clergy, Scout leaders sometimes posture as ‘pillars of the community,’ which makes reporting wrongdoing even tougher.
Like many clergy, Scout leaders care deeply about their institution and its reputation and public relations.
Like many clergy, Scout leaders are surrounded by peers and superiors who feel a strong temptation to ignore, hide or minimize wrongdoing.
And tragically, like many clergy, many Scout leaders have hurt the children they purportedly serve, leaving deep and permanent scars.
Almost as tragically, like many clergy, many Scout leaders were known or suspected child molesters but were left in place by colleagues and supervisors who found it easier to ‘hear no, speak no, see no’ evil, rather than courageously confront, report and stop evil in their midst.
The result: thousands of devastated lives and stolen childhoods and avoidable lifelong suffering.
Just how widespread is all this? “The Boy Scouts have long kept confidential files on volunteers who were credibly accused of abuse. One expert hired by the organization found that there had been nearly 8,000 complaints over a span of decades,” reports the New York Times.
The dam began to break more than a decade ago, when a brave man, Kerry Lewis found a brave attorney, Kelly Clark. (Clark has since passed away, without seeing the full fruit of his ground-breaking work to expose wrongdoing in Scouting).
According to one news account, Lewis “said he had been molested by an assistant scoutmaster, Timur Dykes, in the early 1980s. Mr. Dykes, who had served time for child abuse, had admitted to a Mormon bishop that he had molested several scouts. The bishop alerted the families of Mr. Dykes’s victims but did not warn the other boys in the troop or the authorities. Mr. Dykes was soon able to volunteer with the Scouts again.”
“They knew that their charismatic assistant scout leader Timur Dykes, to whom kids flocked like bees to honey, had admitted to molesting 17 scouts, including Cub Scouts,” said Mr. Clark.
Then, exactly a decade ago, the pair won this pivotal case at the Oregon Supreme Court.
“Crucial to the suit’s success were more than 12,000 pages of internal Boy Scout documents that implicated more than 1,200 scout leaders in sexual abuse from 1965 to 1985,” wrote the New York Times. “They also revealed an organizational practice of handling such accusations internally and minimizing publicity. Lawyers for the Boy Scouts said the files were kept confidential to protect the victims.
Two years later, news organizations, including The Oregonian, The Associated Press and The New York Times, demanded that the files be made public. The Boy Scouts filed a motion to prevent their release, but the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the public had a right to see them.
Thousands of victims have since stepped forward, taking back the power that was ripped from them as boys.
How has the national Scouting organization responded to this flood of long-overdue abuse and cover up lawsuits?
Sadly, like Catholic officials, it has cried ‘bankruptcy,’ and is exploiting Chapter 11 laws to evade responsibility and keep the truth concealed.
Still, those who were betrayed and abused in Scout troops and camps across the U.S. can achieve some measure of justice, healing and closure through the legal process.
We at Horowitz Law already represent over two hundred former Scouts making abuse claims in the bankruptcy court against the Boys Scouts of America. We stand ready to help you too.