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Boy Scouts 'perversion files' released due to court ruling

Portland, Ore. attorney Kelly Clark is seen opening a box of the 'perversion files,' released by the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012. Clark sued in Oregon Supreme Court to have the file released, and the court rule in his favor.
October 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Boy Scouts of America on Thursday made public more than 14,000 pages of the so-called "perversion files," or confidential reports on men in the organization suspected of child sex abuse.

"You do not get to keep secrets about hidden dangers to children. Period," said Portland attorney Kelly Clark.

Clark sued to have the records released, and the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in his favor Thursday.

"I was molested starting at the age of 7 by my assistant scoutmaster. It lasted for 13 years," said Matt Stewart of Gilory, California.

Stewart is a former boy scout who belonged to a troop in Federal Way, Wash.

"Today is also a victory for all of the victims who suffer in silence, and now their voice is heard," he said.

The reports were compiled on 1,200 men between 1965 and 1985. Some of the documents had previously come to light, but those prior to 1971 were made public for the first time.

The Boy Scouts of America says the files helped track offenders and protect children. But past cases have shown repeated instances of scout leaders failing to report sexual abuse to authorities, files like one that noted "strong evidence that he may have been involved with child molestation."

The Boy Scouts of America fought against the release of the new files, arguing the need to protect the privacy of the victims, even though their names were removed from the released files. In the past, authorities justified their actions to keep allegations under wraps as necessary to protect the reputation and good works of the organization.

"There's no question that there are times in the past -- and these go back to 40 to 50 years old -- where we did not do the job that we should have. For that, and for people hurt, we are profoundly sorry," said Boy Scouts of America National President Wayne Perry.

The files provide a glimpse into a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after they were founded 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 files contain details about both proven predators and unsubstantiated allegations.

Among the hundreds of reports is a decades old incident from Santa Monica. In 1977, a troop leader was arrested for molesting a 10-year-old boy who had attended scout meetings. The troop leader was eventually convicted and sent to state prison.

In a memo to a local executive, a field director wrote: "An LAPD officer stated the report was going to be very critical of the Boy Scouts concerning the apparent laxness in the control over the type of leadership we have. He said he felt that we might go so far as to request a fingerprint check on leaders before they become active."

The organization says it has enhanced policies and procedures that now include background checks, training programs and mandates the reporting of suspected abuse. Officials with the Boy Scouts say that their new policies ensure a safe environment. Among other changes, at least two adults must be present at all Scout activities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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