Based in Irving, Texas, the century-old Boy Scouts of America is one of the nations largest volunteer organizations, with more than 100 million youth participants and 33 million adult Scouts leaders. Those few Scouts, around 2 percent, who attain the highest rank of Eagle Scout comprise an elite group that includes members of Congress, governors, astronauts, professional athletes, business executives and film directors.
Trustworthiness is one of the 12 points of the Scout Law. But experts said that creates an opportunity for predators because few people would look for them in a respected, longstanding institution like the Boy Scouts.
Child protection experts say that the efforts in recent years by the Boy Scouts to better track, report and train youth leaders, and its humility in admitting failure, are all laudable steps, but that much more is needed by an organization that built its name and reputation on trust.
It steps in the right direction, said Christopher Anderson, the executive director of Male Survivor, a nonprofit organization for victims of sexual abuse. The next step is that the Boy Scouts should provide support and help for all those victims and survivors who have been harmed.
Said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests: As a society, weve just got to somehow get over this notion that some men, some women, some institutions, are 100 percent pristine and trustworthy. Weve got to look at actual behavior, not reputation.
As in other recent scandals, the Boy Scouts files could produce criminal trials and years of litigation, as well as potentially millions of dollars in damages.
In the Penn State case, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky abused young boys he met through his youth charity. Sandusky, who was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse and sentenced this month to a minimum of 30 years in prison, also was a trusted figure.
It took a three-year state grand jury investigation to bring Sanduskys activities, and the universitys cover-up, to light.
In the scandal that has engulfed the Roman Catholic Church, nearly 11,000 people accused American priests of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002, and the church has faced legal settlements of more than $2 billion. The churchs legal and financial troubles are far from over, and recently, the scandal has spread to congregations in Europe.
Jennifer Freyd, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon and an expert on institutional betrayal, said: The dynamics that can cause institutions to turn a blind eye are powerful dynamics that will show up over and over. Everybody can make a mistake. In the end, its the cover-up that will do you in.
Herman, the Miami lawyer, said that in the cases he is working on, the victims are usually groomed by the predator. The relationship doesnt start off with sex, Herman said. The victim is compliant, not consenting. Obviously a 14-year-old cant consent to sex. They are so confused and guilty, they dont feel like a victim, not until their abuser is named that they say, Oh, my God, I was a victim, Herman said.
Herman added that he believes the Boy Scouts ignored red flags about the molesters.
Information from The New York Times and The Associated Press was used.