Today, thousands of pages of long-secret Boy Scout files about child sex crimes and cover ups are being released. Our heart aches for every child who was assaulted by Scout personnel, especially those who were sexually violated after Scout executives knew or suspected that the assailant was a child molester.
In response to these revelations, Scout executives will offer up a range of carefully-crafted claims largely designed to make excuses, dodge responsibility, shift blame, and proclaim progress. The public should be very wary of these claims.
Scout executives will claim 'we're adopted reforms.' But they've only done so very belatedly, after lawsuits and pressure. (Background checks were adopted by Scout executives only in 2008, for example.)
Scout executives will claim ‘our reforms are working.’ But thus far, these alleged reforms are largely untested.
Scout executives will claim 'now we report all allegations to police.' But there is really no way to verify if officials are or are not. (Stressing this claim evades the question of what’s happening to the thousands of current and former Scout officials who knew of or suspected child sex crimes but hid them? Who are these men and how are they being punished?)
Already, Scout executives are making three very disappointing claims. To CNN, they are:
--defending their long-standing practice of staying silent about child sex crimes, and claiming they care about victims’ privacy. That’s an astonishingly cynical ploy. First, victims’ names are redacted from these files (as they should be). Second, victims want, more than anything, to see child sex crimes and cover ups exposed and prevented. They want children protected. And we predict they will resent Scout executives fighting disclosure that will hurt Scout executives by claiming their real concern is the privacy of victims.
--warning about a potential “chilling effect on the reporting of abuse” by these disclosure. But what really “chills” abuse reporting is the fear that nothing will be done and no wrongdoers will be punished. If Scout executives want to encourage others to report child sex crimes, they should publicly and severely discipline every Scout employee and volunteer who ignored or concealed these crimes. That kind of strong, clear, and effective public action will definitely encourage others who are hurting to report their victimization.
--shifting blame by reminding us that predators come in all shapes, sizes and institutions. “Some men will use a position of trust and access to young people to pursue illegal sexual gratification. This is a sad reality that has been with us throughout human history,” Scout executives are saying. That, again, is self-serving. It’s a dodge. It’s an excuse. It’s insulting and irrelevant. It’s what Catholic bishops have said for decades and still say.
It’s clear that Scout executives hope that repeating same self-serving claims again and again will help them evade responsibility. We hope they’re wrong.
The simple truth is that lofty words by Scout executives are merely that: words. We encourage Scouting families to hold out for real change, not superficial public relations moves. When it comes to kids' safety, we urge Scouting families to be skeptical, not trusting, and vigilant, not complacent.
Finally, every parent in the country owes a debt to Kerry Lewis and the other five brave men who took legal action to protect kids, expose these predators and their enablers, and deter similar wrongdoing in the future. They are true heroes.