Scouts Honor: Files Reveal Scope of Boy Scouts Sexual Abuse Scandal
October 17th, 2012
The Los Angeles Times looked at nearly 1,900 files that the Boy Scouts of American kept between 1970 and 1991, along with case summaries from an additional 3,100 files from 1974 and 2005 describing some four decades of child sexual abuse which rivals the Catholic Church’s clerical scandal in breadth and scope:
The thousands of men expelled from the Boy Scouts of America on suspicion of molesting children came from all walks of life — teachers and plumbers, doctors and bus drivers, politicians and policemen. They ranged in age from teens to senior citizens and came from troops in every state.
…Many of the men who were ultimately expelled from the Scouts were highly decorated troop leaders and respected members of the community. Dozens had been honored with Scouting awards such as the Silver Beaver, a distinguished service award for adult troop leaders. John McGrew was a Dallas scoutmaster who had been recognized as teacher of the year and received a proclamation from City Hall for his work with disadvantaged youths. Two months before he was arrested on molestation charges, he was featured in Scouting Magazine, where his supervisor praised his “personal dedication and genuine love for these kids.” In 1988, 16 boys testified in court that McGrew had abused them. He was convicted on several counts and sentenced to life in prison.
Darrald Timmie Ostopowich, an assistant scoutmaster in Los Angeles, told a psychiatrist that over four years he sexually assaulted more than 50 boys, most of whom were Cub Scouts, according to his file. Scouting officials only learned about the abuse years later after news of his 1981 conviction was published. He is now in jail.
In the early 1990s, child abuse experts on an advisory panel urged the Boy Scouts of American to study the files for patterns in order to try to prevent abuse from occurring. David Finkelhor, a widely-published child abuse expert from the University of New Hampshire said that they raised the issue “pretty regularly every year or two” but was routinely ignored. Instead of mining the data to gain a scientifically-valid insight into the problem, the Boy Scouts instead used the not so subtle homosexual-as-predator subtext as part of its justification in keeping gay people out of Scouting altogether — even though research has consistently shown that openly out and proud gay people are no more likely to molest children than anyone else.
To illustrate the BSA’s insistence on equating the two, Seattle’s KING discovered that the Boy Scout’s files (which BSA called the “perversion files”) intermingled files of accusations of sexual abuse with those of Scout leaders who were merely suspected of being gay without any allegations of any kind of misconduct being made against them. Of the fifty files KING looked at, two fit that latter bill:
One file is about a scoutmaster form Ellensburg who was outsted from Scouting in 1974 after the organization had collected evidence he was gay. A memorandum from a Scout Executive in Yakima to the organization’s Registration and Subscription Executive at BSA headquarters in Texas explains they’d “become aware of a suspected moral problem” with (the Scout leader). The Yakima executive recieved information that the man had previously been discharged as a Scouting camp counselor “on suspicion of homosexuality.” The Scouts continued to build their case in the file by obtaining “proof” of their suspicion. The record is a four page letter handwritten by the scoutmaster where he confides to a friend, “Yes, I am gay (homosexual)”. It’s unclear from the file how BSA obtained the letter. The following month BSA leaders in Texas completed their file with a lifetime ban on the scoutmaster. Their “Confidential Record Sheet” lists one reason for the move: “homosexuality”.
In 1990 a Chapter Chief from Seattle was removed from the Scouting program for being gay. The Scouts launched an investigation and created a file on the man after a parent wrote to complain the leader was “effeminate”. The parent was concerned the Chapter Chief was “exerting influence over impressionable boys”. The Scout Executive of the Chief Seattle Council, Dean Lollar, requested written proof of the man’s sexual orientation from a Chapter advisor who had befriended the suspected gay leader. The friend documented a conversation with the Chapter Chief in which he stated “I am gay. In no way have I or will I ever force myself on any Scouts or Scouters that I work with. The Boy Scouts have done so many wonderful things for me and have given me purpose and goals to work for. I couldn’t think of ever doing something the Boy Scouts would be upset with.”
The Scouts were upset. They removed the man from the organization a month after recieving the written account of his admission.
The Times has published an interactive map and database where you can enter a name or city to find out about abuse allegations in your area. You can read more about the science of child sexual abuse in our 2006 report, “Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?“