The recent release of a “treasure-trove” of names, dates and locations of men suspected of molesting boys in Scouting is likely to have broad impact, from sparking new lawsuits to forcing youth-serving organizations to ramp up their efforts to protect children in their care, according to experts in child sexual abuse.
All organizations that serve children suffer from the same challenge: “Pedophiles go where there are children,” said former federal prosecutor J. Robert Flores.
Preventing child sex abuse “is an area where everybody probably can stand to do a better job and I think we will miss a teachable moment if it’s just about the Boy Scouts,” he said.
On Thursday, a Portland, Ore., law firm released some 14,500 pages of material collected by officials with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) on men who were suspected of or found to be child molesters.
The venerable organization, which uses male leadership, outdoor activities and service projects to help boys become men of good character, leadership and citizenship, has kept such “ineligible volunteer” files almost since its founding in 1910.
In 2007, an Oregon man sued the BSA, saying it failed to protect him from an assistant Scoutmaster who molested him. The BSA’s ineligible-volunteer file became part of the lawsuit, and this year, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed that the materials on some 1,200 men could be made available to the public.
Lawyer Kelly Clark and his colleagues at O’Donnell, Clark and Crew spent time redacting information about victims and whistleblowers, and Thursday posted the materials on the suspected molesters online. According to a spreadsheet, 56 men were named from the Washington, D.C., area. At least two men are in the Maryland sex-offender registry.
The BSA, which fought the release of the files and is opposing a request to reveal recent files in a Texas lawsuit, said it has constantly updated its “youth-protection” policies, and is now a mandatory reporter for child abuse. BSA National President Wayne Perry has also apologized for the “plainly insufficient” efforts to protect all of the young Scouts.
“The Scouting image is definitely taking a hit,” similar to what happened with child-molestation scandals in the Catholic Church, day care centers and Penn State University, said Patrick Boyle, a former Washington Times staff member who used many of the same BSA files to write his 1991 award-winning, five-part series on sex abuse in the BSA.
“Now anybody can now go online and read files about child molesters in Scouting, and that is a real in-your-face moment for the public . They can see how prevalent this was,” said Mr. Boyle, who is now communications director for the Forum for Youth Investment.
Law-enforcement officials from around the country are sure to want to see such a “treasure-trove” of information on suspected child molesters, and victims may bring new cases, said Mr. Flores, president of Hampton Roads Strategies LLC, a consulting firm on child protection.
A lot of cases might not go anywhere because of statute-of-limitations laws, added Mr. Flores. But pedophiles are notorious for keeping pictures of their victims, and if even elderly men still have pictures from 30 or 40 years ago, they can be charged with possession of child pornography today.
The release of the BSA materials is a reminder “of something that most of us don’t want to think about,” said Staca Shehan, director of the case-analysis division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
However, parents, children and those who work with children should remain vigilant and be savvy about the reality of child sexual abuse, she said. If a child is touched improperly or otherwise exposed to harm, they should tell a parent or trusted adult, and it should be reported to law enforcement and called in on center’s hotline or cybertipline.com.