'Perversion files' could shed light on sexual abuse in Boy Scouts
Attorneys for a Boy Scout suing the Boy Scouts of America and his former scoutmaster in Minnesota have obtained documents that detail internal records kept by the Scouts on cases of suspected sexual abuse from 1999-2008.
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Patrick Boyle, who as a journalist was among the first to expose efforts by the Scouts to hide the extent of abuse by their leaders, said the files could show how the Boy Scouts evolved in their response to abuse allegations over the years — or didn't.Skip to next paragraph
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"What's potentially powerful about these files is they can give us some idea of how big the problem has been in recent years, and might even give us an idea of whether the abuse prevention efforts by the Scouts have had any impact," said Boyle, who now serves as communications director for the nonprofit Forum for Youth Investment in Washington.
When Ramsey County District Judge Elena Ostby ordered the Scouts in January to give up the files, she also ordered the removal of information that could identify people named in the files.
Even without names, Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and a longtime advocate for child sex abuse victims, said any release of new files might eventually reveal new perpetrators and new institutions such as troops, churches and schools where abuse occurred, emboldening other victims to seek justice.
"It can be a real wakeup call to survivors who have not come forward," Hamilton said.
Portland, Ore., attorney Bill Barton, who handled the first big abuse case against the Scouts in the 1980s, said he didn't think the newer files would illuminate much about what he considers the core issue, a history of Scouting officials minimizing the problem.
"I think the broad landscape's pretty much on the table," Barton said.
The Minnesota plaintiff is identified only as John Doe 180. His lawsuit targets the national organization, the local Northern Star Council and River Hills United Methodist Church in Burnsville, which sponsored his troop. It also names Stibal, who was accused of abusing him in 2007-2008. It alleges the national and local organizations knew for decades that pedophiles had infiltrated Scouting and should have known the danger Stibal presented. He was sentenced in 2011 to more than 21 years in prison for molesting four Scouts from 2003-2008. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages over $50,000.
Anderson said John Doe 180, now in his late teens, did not want to speak ahead of testifying.
"He is a courageous young man who really stepped forward in a way that resulted in Stibal having gone to prison," Anderson said. "Hopefully through his actions other kids will be safer for it, and the Boy Scouts better for it."
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