June 1, 2014
In October of 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Boy Scouts of America to release confidential files the organization had kept for years. These files, known as “the Perversion Files”, contain records of Boy Scout volunteers who had been subject to allegations of sexual abuse and records of what the Boy Scout organization did in response to discovering the allegations. The files may have been complied from as early as the 1920’s.
Since then, these files have been searchable online, including names of perpetrators. As pointed out in a New York Times editorial of October 19, 2012, the Boy Scouts have defended keeping the files confidential arguing that the privacy allowed them to be subject a a system of internal controls which helped prevent attempts by the alleged perpetrators to rejoin scouting.
However, the result of this secrecy is a failure to report the allegations to law enforcement and protection for the abusers from criminal punishment for their behavior. The Boy Scots failed to report many allegations to the public as well.
A number of the files also detail situations in which the Boy Scouts terminated volunteers subject to allegations, and thereafter the volunteers rejoining and reoffending within the organization.
The release order began with a civil lawsuit in Oregon Superior Court by six victims of sexual abuse which resulted in a punitive damages award of 18.5 million against the Boy Scout organization. The law firm that won the civil lawsuit appealed all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court on the issue of release of the files, winning a release order from the Supreme Court.
At the time of the release, the Boy Scouts issued an apology for their part in failing to protect the children from abusers. Additionally, they pointed out that by 2012, the police were involved in 63% of cases.
For more information, see this Washington Post article regarding the 2012 release of the files: Boy scout “perversion files” released, The Washington Post, by Paul Duggan, October 18, 2012.