Lawsuits against Boy Scouts of America increase after release of ‘perversion files’

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by John Chapman

Since the release of the Boy Scouts of America’s “perversion files,” the organization continues to face a string of sexual abuse lawsuits. Because sexual abuse cases involving the Boy Scouts of America can end in private settlements, it is unknown how much the group has paid to victims.

Back in 2010, the Boy Scouts of America were ordered to pay $18.5 million in a lawsuit that focused new attention on the secret files the Scouts kept to document claims of sexual abuse by troop leaders and volunteers. Known variously as the “perversion files,” the “red flag files” and the “ineligible volunteer files,” the documents had been maintained for more than 70 years at the Scouts’ national office in Texas. The 2010 case was one of the few times that substantial portions of the files have been made accessible to a jury.

In that case, a jury found the Scouts liable for $1.4 million in compensatory damages and $18.5 million in punitive damages in a case brought by a man who was sexually abused by an assistant troop leader in the early 1980s, when the man was about 12. In that case, about 1,000 files, from the years 1965 to 1984, were included as evidence, though the judge allowed only the jury and lawyers involved to view them. Lawyers for the man said in court that the files detailed many instances across the country in which troop leaders or volunteers were allowed to continue working with children even after the Scouts had received complaints that they had committed sexual abuse.

Several lawsuits have been filed recently against the scouts. For example, an Ohio man alleges that when was 7 years old, his older brothers’ Indiana Scoutmaster started molesting him. The suit is the first of its kind in Ohio, following the October public release of the Boy Scouts’ formerly secret “perversion files. Those files will likely be used in Abner’s case to prove that the Texas-based organization knew about abuse, yet did little or nothing to stop the abusers – and even took steps to conceal sex offenses.

A California man has also sued a regional Boy Scouts council, alleging he was sexually abused by his scout leader more than 30 years ago. The lawsuit claims the scoutmaster of his Vacaville-based troop frequently molested him between 1978 and 1981. The suit also claims Boy Scouts officials at the local and regional level knew the scoutmaster had inappropriate contact with other boys.

A Delaware man has also recently sued the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over childhood sexual abuse committed by the scoutmaster at his church-sponsored troop. Melvin Novak filed the lawsuit in state court in Philadelphia, charging that newly released Boy Scout “perversion files” support his claim that the organization hid abuse complaints for years. The lawsuit names the larger Mormon church and the Downingtown-area chapel that Novak attended.

However, not all of the recent lawsuits concern such long-ago matters. An 18-year-old Bexar County, Texas resident has filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and its local affiliate, the Alamo Area Council, accusing his former assistant scoutmaster of molesting him. As a result of the abuse, the perpetrator was convicted by a Bexar County jury in 2008 for aggravated sexual assault of a child and is currently in prison. The lawsuit alleges that for decades prior to the sexual abuse, the Boy Scouts of America and the Alamo Scouts Council “have known that Scouting attracted child molesters into the ranks of scoutmasters, assistant scoutmasters and adult volunteers” and that the organizations have kept this a secret from sponsoring organizations, troop committees, scouts and their families.

The Boy Scout files – more than 14,000 pages of secret documents compiled from 1959 to 1985 – show that police, prosecutors, pastors and scout leaders quietly shielded scoutmasters and others who allegedly molested children. In response, the Scouts have apologized and said their response to the allegations were “plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.”