A professor of psychiatry who has worked with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) since 2014 recently testified that she and her colleagues have identified more than 7,800 former scout leaders and volunteers whom they say “were involved in sexually abusing a child” over the past 75 years. The information comes from the BSA's “Ineligible Volunteer Files,” which some now call the “Perversion Files.” Dr. Janet Warren, who teaches at the University of Virginia, also says, “From reviewing all these files, we identified 12,254 victims.”
This is according to sworn testimony provided at a trial held in Minnesota in January – but the figures were not released until this week when a New York attorney appeared at a public news conference. Jeff Anderson, who has worked on several abuse cases involving the Roman Catholic Church, told the media that Warren's disclosure “really sounded the alarm,” and is calling on the BSA to make the list of names available to the general public. That list includes 130 former scouting volunteers currently residing in New York, who could face civil liability once the state's new law, the Child Victims Act, goes into effect this summer. That law effectively ends the statute of limitations on sex crimes against minors.
The BSA has long acknowledged that it has kept an “Ineligible Volunteers” list since the 1920s. Until recently, however, the sheer magnitude of the scandal was not generally known.
In a related story, 200 former Boy Scouts, ranging in age from 17 to 60, have recently come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.
This is not the first time the BSA has had to deal with such allegations. In 2010, an Oregon jury ordered the organization to pay $18.5 million in damages to a 38-year-old man who said he had been sexually abused by an assistant scoutmaster. Today, the BSA faces approximately 200 lawsuits from alleged victims – and the organization's insurers are now threatening to cancel their liability policies.
Because of this, the BSA is now considering filing for bankruptcy protection, which could hamstring the ability of victims to seek justice. Not only would bankruptcy limit the time in which victims could file lawsuits, but it would also make the record confidential, so perpetrators could not be exposed as community threats.
According to attorney Tim Kosnoff, who has handled similar cases against the LDS Church, the publicity and the threat of public exposure is the real reason the BSA is considering bankruptcy. “[It's] not because they don't have the money...[it's] to hide these dirty secrets,” he said.
Although the BSA has banned scout leaders and volunteers who have been “credibly accused” of abusing boys, there are questions about how many of those abusers were actually reported to law enforcement.