"Perversion files" kept for decades by the Boy Scouts of America were released to the public Thursday by a Portland attorney.
The thousands of pages of documents contained in 1,200 files from 1965 to 1985, show how the Boy Scouts dealt with men who were accused of molesting children. (Files are online at www.kellyclarkattorney.com/files.)
"What we're looking at here represents as many as 6 [thousand] to 24,000 boys abused in Boy Scouting," said attorney Kelly Clark, who reviewed and redacted the documents after a judge ruled in June 2012 that the public has a right to see them.
The ruling was triggered by a 2007 lawsuit filed by Clark on behalf of former Boy Scout Kerry Lewis of Oregon. Lewis, now 40, sued the Boy Scouts of America on grounds that they failed to protect him from the abuse he suffered as a young teen at the hands of his assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.
Boy Scouts executives at the group's national headquarters in Irving, Texas began compiling the files nearly 100 years ago for the purpose of keeping child predators out of Scouting's ranks.
"For the first time ever the public will actually see, not just hear about, but see what the Boy Scouts knew about child abuse in their midst, and what they did and did not do about it," Clark said.
Release of files ordered after landmark lawsuit
The man who sexually abused Kerry Lewis over a two-year period, Assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes, confessed in 1983 to a Scouting leader, a Mormon bishop, that he had molested 17 boys in his troop. According to testimony at trial, instead of warning parents or calling police, the bishop slowly allowed Dykes back into Scouting. The next year Dykes began molesting Kerry Lewis when the Scout was 13. Dykes was convicted of the crimes and served prison time in Oregon. He is currently a Portland resident and a registered sex offender.
A jury awarded Lewis $18.5 million in 2010, concluding that the Boy Scouts knew about the problem and failed to protect him. The files to be released Thursday were presented to the jury by plaintiff attorneys as proof that the organization had collected so many records on child molesters that they had an obligation to warn parents and Scout leaders that pedophiles were accessing victims through Scouting.
"They were asleep at the switch. They didn't pay any attention to what was in their files and just kept everything the same," Clark said of the Scouts. “Just like they said to kids when the clouds gather and you start hearing the thunder, get off the ridge. They trained kids on how to avoid getting hit by lightning. Why didn’t they train kids on how to avoid getting molested? You see, that’s where they dropped the ball.”
The fact that the Boy Scouts kept detailed files on thousands of men it had banned from Scouting -- some, like Dykes, active child molesters, others simply for being gay or suspected of it -- came to light during civil lawsuits like Lewis' case. But the majority of those suits filed by former Scouts ended in quiet settlements. The Lewis case was different. It went to trial.
The Boy Scouts waged a five-year legal battle to keep the documents away from public view which led ultimately to an Oregon Supreme Court ruling. The court ruled that since the files were admitted into evidence in open court in the Lewis case, the records belonged to the public and should be produced for public inspection.
WA files obtained by KING 5
Earlier this month the KING 5 Investigators obtained 50 of the "perversion files," also known as the "Ineligible Volunteer files," related to Scout leaders in Washington state. The files are dated from 1974 to 1991. Analysis found that the cases weren’t confined to one or two cities, but were based on incidents across the state. In the majority of cases the Boy Scouts found out about the suspected abuse from the media or law enforcement.
In a few cases suspicions of abuse came into the Scouting organization, but instead of calling Child Protective Services or law enforcement, a file was created with evidence of suspected abuse, then the leader was quietly removed from Scouting with no call made to police.
One such case involved a Scoutmaster in Seattle in 1988. Another file detailed a similar event in Kennewick in 1991. In a 1987 case near Bellingham, a leader was allowed back into Scouting leadership after a conviction for sex crimes against children. The file contains a letter indicating fellow leaders believed he deserved to come back to Scouting “because he has done so much for (Scout) camp and is a nice guy”.
Patterns of abuse revealed
Attorneys releasing the files Thursday say they reveal patterns of abuse. Single men in their 30s and 40s were the most likely to be accused of molestation. These men spent lots of one-on-one time with their victims. Many exhibited the "Pied Piper" phenomenon – charismatic men, popular with young Scouts for their expertise in outdoor skills like hunting and climbing.
Reaction by top Scout
Boy Scouts President Wayne Perry said the files kept by his organization are about the past.
"Youth protection been with us for a long time, we've been a great organization on that. To the extent that there have been examples in the past of 40 years ago, I can't explain those. All I can tell you is what we have today. And do I feel comfortable today? You bet. I think you're far safer having your child in the Boy Scouts of America than anywhere else," said Perry from headquarters in Texas.
‘Warren Report’ shows Scouts file system worked well
Top Scout leaders deny the collection of files helps to identify patterns of abuse or proves the problems were ignored. In preparation for release of files to the public, the organization hired an independent review of the files by a Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Janet Warren.
The Warren Report found: “Nothing in these files changes the stark fact that there has never been a profile of a child sexual offender. In reviewing the entirety of these files, I was struck by the wide range of individuals charged with sexual misconduct. No single profile of a suspect offender emerges. While some have attempted to categorize these files as a 'treasure trove' of information about pedophiles and their actions, that simply is not the case,” wrote Warren.
Warren went on to write that the process of creating files was a smart move on the part of the Boy Scouts which did keep children safe.
“In summary, my review and analysis indicate that while it was not perfect, and mistakes clearly occurred, BSA's IV (Ineligible Volunteer) File system has functioned well in keeping many unfit adults out of Scouting. Time and again in reviewing these files, I was struck by BSA's pursuit of information regarding a suspected sexual offender. These claims of abuse were not swept under the carpet and ignored. Rather, suspected offenders were pursued and often times barred from Scouting over their fervent objection and at time even the opinion of the local community,” wrote Warren.
Clark said making the Scouts’ files public will help other organizations set policies for dealing with molesters.
"The reason to put this stuff out there is because it protects children," Clark said. "Athletic leagues, schools, churches, camping organizations can say: 'Wow, let's not make those mistakes, let's go here, not there.'"
Current safety policies
By the 1990s the Boy Scouts began to implement policies specifically aimed at keeping their members from sexual abuse. Currently, every registered Scouter must take their Youth Protection training. In 2008 they instituted background checks for all volunteers. After the Lewis case in 2010, Scout policy changed to require all suspected abuse be reported to law enforcement.
Details of release of files
The files were released online on Thursday. KING5.com is providing a link to the repository of files. Readers should be able to sort by name, state and other criteria. Names of the victims and those who reported suspicions of abuse will be redacted, as per the court order. According to Clark, who’s had attorneys working full time on the redactions for three months, legal representatives from the Boy Scouts of America have signed off on the redactions.