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1,900 Boy Scout Leaders Accused Of Child Sex Abuse


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. A Seattle lawyer has released a list of 1,900 leaders or volunteers in the Boy Scouts of America, accused of molesting children. It's a list of people the Scouts barred from leadership, and it spans a period of more than two decades. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Stories of sexual abuse among the Boy Scouts have been slowly coming to light for years, in large part through lawsuits filed by some former Scouts. Scout officials say they kept their so-called "ineligible volunteer files" as a kind of blacklist, to protect kids from perpetrators. But only now are the details and extent of the alleged abuse becoming public.

TIM KOSNOFF: I mean, it's staggering. It's - it's just very disturbing.

SMITH: Attorney Tim Kosnoff has organized data - from 1970 to 1991 - into a kind of index; with the name of the accused perpetrator, and a headline of the accused wrongdoing. He says the list shows a pattern of widespread and egregious abuse that was often, not reported to police.

KOSNOFF: These are some of the worst forms of abuse I've seen. We're talking about the rape and sodomy of, you know, 11- and 12-year-old boys.

SMITH: Even more detail is due out next week, when other attorneys will release the full files - including original complaints made by parents, and internal Scout memos. For example, says plaintiff's attorney Kelly Clark, a Cub Scout leader was caught sleeping in the nude with Scouts, and showing them pornography; and the Boy Scouts responded, saying it was, quote, "poor judgment, but not enough to remove him from scouting."

KELLY CLARK: It's one thing to know, intellectually, that America's most trusted institution dropped the ball in protecting children. It's another thing to see it there, in black and white; and to see the urgent words of a mother, and then to see the cold response from the National Boy Scouts.

SMITH: Clark says the files also reveal the systematic failures that enabled countless accused perpetrators to reoffend. There is one who simply changed his middle initial, and got rehired. And Clark says officials asked another to leave the Scouts, but did nothing to help keep him away from other kids.

CLARK: He finally says "OK, I give up. I'll resign my scouting leadership position. Besides that, I've been doing some soul-searching and have decided I'm going back to the Catholic priesthood." And, of course, this is what happens when the Boy Scouts don't report to law enforcement. So as far as we know, that person went back to the Catholic priesthood.

SMITH: The Boy Scouts have issued an apology for, quote, "certain cases" where their response was, quote, "plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong." But spokesman Deron Smith says new policies require thorough background checks and training of all leaders, and now mandate reporting of even a suspicion of abuse.

DERON SMITH: I think what you'll see is an organization that has exhibited good-faith effort to do the best that it could, in the time period in which it operated, to help keep kids safe. And what's important to note is that today, scouting is a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse.

BARBARA BLAINE: We believe that it's their actions that speak louder than words.

SMITH: Barbara Blaine is president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, that is now fielding calls from Scouts. She says she hopes the list of names will prompt more victims to come forward; to prevent future abuse and also, to help heal those abused in the past.

BLAINE: Just knowing that it happened to another person and oh, I'm not alone - well, it changes everything because then, maybe it wasn't my fault; maybe there isn't something wrong with me.

SMITH: For most victims of this time period, it's too late to file suit or for criminal charges. Meantime, the Boy Scouts are fighting a court order to release more recent files.

Tovia Smith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.

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