Boy Scouts of America sexual assault scandal betrays values

Eagle Scout Riley Garand is left disillusioned by hypocrisy in the organization he loves


Karmyn Shreeve

Staff writer Riley Garand, a longtime boy scout, writes about his views on the recent sexual misconduct scandal.

Riley Garand, Staff Writer

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has existed since 1910 and is based on the motto “Be Prepared.” This motto, along with slogans, oaths and laws as well as the organization’s history of constant humanitarian work and community service has always made me proud to be a Boy Scout.

Abuse and sexual misconduct and assault have surrounded BSA for decades. In a sexual misconduct trial in Oregon in 2010, BSA “Perversion Files” were used as sealed evidence and released in 2012. That was only the start to learning about the darkness within the organization. Recent analysis by researcher Dr. Janet Warren, hired by BSA to analyze the details within “Perversion Files,” shows a more in depth look at the files. On May 16, The Los Angeles Times reported that “from 1944 to 2016 [Warren] testified earlier this year that she had identified 7,819 suspected abusers and 12,254 victims, marking the youth group’s first known tallies.” Warren didn’t find evidence of a cover up at a national level but The Los Angeles Times also reports that “Several lawyers also said they had signed up hundreds of new clients and that many of their claims accuse men who aren’t on the Scouts’ blacklist.”

When I first read about this scandal, my first question was what exactly are “Perversion Files?” The BSA uses it like a blacklist. These perversion files are defined as a database that keeps track of adult leaders, parents or individuals who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing Boy Scouts. In theory it’s a good idea, but the BSA fails to track these blacklisted members and notify the public.

Attorney Tim Kosnoff has compiled data surrounding acts of abuse in Scouts. Kosnoff lists on his website that “analysis of the internal files reveals that the Boy Scouts have been dismissing scoutmasters for sexual abuse at the rate of one every three days for the past 50 years.” BSA is in talks of filing bankruptcy due to the sheer amount of individuals suing them.

Yes, you read that right.

As someone who has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, highest rank of Boy Scouts, I am utterly saddened with the organization I have always been proud to be part of. I have participated in Scouts since I was eight years old, and I have had such an amazing experience. My troop, fellow scouts and leaders made my journey an unforgettable and life-changing one. Sadly, it’s time to realize that not everyone within this national organization has been so lucky.

The fact that BSA had never released the names of some these abusers to the public is not only alarming, but calls into question the intentions of the leadership of the organization itself. BSA can claim they’re sorry and that they believe sexual assault survivors. However, they continue to contribute to the problem by preventing the truth from coming out fully. The Perversion Files was a good idea, but the failure to release all of the names to the public is a huge misstep. My question is what else is BSA hiding?

As a baptised and confirmed Catholic, this scandal feels almost like deja vu. The Catholic Church has also hidden a dark history of sexual assault. Unfortunately, seeing the mishandling of sexual assault related issues is common in today’s world. It is disillusioning that even the organizations I’ve held as a close and positive part of my identity for most of my life can have such a dark, painful side.

My issue with accepting the reality of BSA’s hypocrisy runs deep: the groups that perpetuate this abuse are also ones that demand individuals to follow rules on how to be the moral person. Many times it’s individuals in leadership positions that allow and contribute to abuse. How do I wrap my mind around the fact that how  people who run an organization I trust and leaders within the organization are bad people?

I have memorized Scout Laws and Oaths, telling me to be honest and trustworthy. I have been Confirmed, had a First Communion and have even gone to confession in the Catholic Church. Honesty and the goodness of humanity is what each group preaches yet this hypocrisy is poison in their veins.

When you’re young, you look for the best in the world but as you get older there is a time where you have to step back and question what is real and genuine. Sadly, one must learn that not every adult and not every organization is who or what they say they are. While I understand that these abuses don’t reflect what the groups as a whole represent, these scandals only further prove that there is darkness in some aspects of life you trust and believe in.

I will always be proud of being an Eagle Scout and having a sense of faith, but some aspects of my identity, ones I had before, seem destroyed. My memories in Scouts are ones I cherish but others across the country have been silenced by the organization. As I go onto college and other life endeavors, I will look to these uncoverings and my realizations as a learning experience. They’ve made me realize that finding your own faith and way of doing things is important. I will be sure to remember that my values and morals are what’s most important, not those of the groups I belong to. I will also remember that those who seem perfect and those who expect perfection in others may not always be perfect themselves. I advise readers to do the same. Take a hard look at what you believe in and find what makes up your identity.