Thousands of pages of internal files from the Boy Scouts of America detailing cases of suspected or confirmed child molestation by Scout leaders and adult volunteers spanning two decades were due to be released as part of a civil judgement against the organisation.
The 1 247 files - known internally as the "confidential" or "ineligible volunteer" files - reveal in often disturbing language thousands of incidents in which young Scouts were sexually abused by adult leaders between 1965 and 1985, according to lawyers familiar with the documents.
Since at least 1919, the Boy Scouts, headquartered in Irving, Texas, has maintained the file to prevent suspected paedophiles from re-entering its ranks in other cities and states.
Authorities not notified
Police were involved in nearly two-thirds of the 1965-1985 cases, according to a recently released Boy Scouts report. But in scores of cases around the nation, local Scout leaders urged confessed or suspected paedophiles to quietly resign and did not notify authorities.
In other cases, paedophiles were allowed to return to the organisation after being treated by psychiatrists. In a number of those cases, according to Boy Scouts officials and plaintiff attorneys, the men went on to molest more young Scouts.
Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry said in a statement late that "there have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate and wrong."
Perry added that "while it's difficult to understand or explain individuals' actions from many decades ago, Scouting is a leader among youth-serving organisations in preventing child abuse."
Files will play key role in civil case
The files set to be released played a key evidentiary role in a 2010 civil case in which an Oregon jury found the organisation liable for $18.5 million for failing to protect a Scout from a paedophile in the 1980s.
An Oregon circuit judge ordered the files released. The state's highest court upheld that order in June, over objections by the Boy Scouts. A similar court fight is unfolding in Texas over Boy Scouts files created from 1985 to 2010.
The older files will be released electronically in searchable database form by an Oregon law firm that represented the plaintiff in the Oregon case, said plaintiff attorney Paul Mones.
Some will show cases in which the Boy Scouts was prevented by its own attorneys from formally expelling adult leaders accused of abuse unless they were convicted in court.
The organisation currently requires even suspected cases of child molestation to be reported immediately to authorities, conducts criminal background checks on adult applicants and prohibits one-on-one contact between an adult and a young Scout. The Boy Scouts also trains volunteers and Scout leaders to spot signs of abuse.
(Reuters Health, October 2012)
Signs of sexual abuse hard to read
Focus on child sexual abuse
Childhood sexual abuse linked to heart attacks in men