Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boy Scouts Say if Scout Leader Abuses Boy, Sometimes It's the Victim's Mother's Fault

Mad Magazine taught me a lesson. I was a kid in an eighth-grade Sunday school class, of all places, where our study material used a Mad Magazine cartoon to illustrate a point. In a series of comics, people held masks in front of their faces with big smiles and making nice-nice. Their real faces behind the masks scowled and said what the people were really thinking.

The Boy Scouts of America are talking out of two faces. What they say in their utopian-world communications doesn't match what the attorneys and local Scout leaders are snarling underneath the smiley masks in court.

You probably know something about the ongoing crisis hounding BSA. Accusations about child sexual abuse by Scout leaders has led to civil suits, convictions, and organizational damage control.

The Boy Scouts, with their mask face, say all the right things in their media responses and on their website.  For specifics, see

Here's a for-instance: "The BSA takes a multi-layered approach to youth protection: (1) local selection of adult volunteers with the support of the national organization, (2) education and training, and (3) clear policies such as no "one on one" activities, and immediate reporting of any concerns."

At the center of the battle is BSA's 15,000-page Ineligible Volunteer Files that list the people who pose a risk if they were to work with kids. The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Scouts to hand over the secret pedophilia files to an abuse plaintiff's attorney, who released them to the public in October. The Boy Scouts' explanation is, "By being proactive and acting upon many kinds of information—including tips and hearsay that cannot be proven in a court of law—the BSA has successfully kept dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals, as well as inappropriate role models, out of our organization.

"Scouts are safer because of the Ineligible Volunteer Files. Recent efforts have sought to make the files public and suggest that the BSA is trying to hide something by maintaining their confidentiality. That is far from the truth."

But not too far. One lawsuit alleges that two brothers in Michigan were molested hundreds of times by a troop leader. The Boy Scouts denied responsibility and pointed the finger at the boys’ recently widowed mother. "The Scouts faulted the woman 'for her failure to provide adequate parental supervision,' suggesting in court papers that she was responsible for any harm to her sons.

“'The day their dad died, the perpetrator began to befriend the boys,' (Attorney) Kelly Clark said. 'Then the Boy Scouts turn around and file papers saying Mom was the problem?'”  (

The pending lawsuit alleges that assistant scoutmaster Roger Young, a 25-year volunteer, had raped or otherwise abused both Scouts repeatedly at their home, his house, and the church where the troop met. The abuse occurred in 2006 and 2007, when both boys were under 14. According to the lawsuit, local Scouting officials knew about Young and the time he spent alone with the boys — in violation of the Scouts’ child-protection policies — but ignored warnings by police and others. In 2007, a member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters found the boys not wearing pants while alone with Young at their home and at a motel where the family was staying, according to court documents and a police affidavit. In at least one instance, Young was in his underwear.

Scouts officials did nothing. Young continued serving with the troop even after police raised concerns and eyebrows about him. In October 2009, he was charged with possessing child pornography and criminal sexual conduct involving one of the boys.

Young killed himself the next month.

Read more here:
 “'We have heard from victims of abuse and are doing our very best to respond to each person with our utmost care and sensitivity,' Scouting spokesman Deron Smith said in October, offering an apology, counseling and other assistance." Unfortunately, that message to try to win over the court of public opinion doesn't match the strategy being used in the court of law.

As another example, former volunteer Scout leader Al Steven Stein is a defendant accused of abusing a 13-year-old boy. Stein had a history of inappropriate behavior with children, but a local Scout official allegedly tried to keep the boy’s mother from reporting the abuse to police. She did anyway, and Stein later pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment.

An Oregon man’s lawsuit alleged that Scouting allowed troop leader Timur Dykes to continue in the group after he admitted to molesting 17 boys in the early '80s. At the 2010 trial, regional Scouts official Eugene Grant blamed parents for allowing their sons to go to Dykes’ apartment for merit badge work and sleepovers. “His parents should have known better,” Grant said of one victim. “I think it’s criminal.”

The jury thought it was criminal too -- criminal for BSA. It awarded $20 million in damages.

In New York, 2002, Jerrold Schwartz, a former scoutmaster, admitted abusing a boy in his troop in the 1990s. He pleaded guilty in 2002 to four counts of sodomy and was sent to prison. Despite the conviction and the victim’s testimony that Schwartz “raped me and forced me to perform oral sex on him,” BSA, in a a subsequent lawsuit, contended that the sex was consensual, records show.

“To argue that an adult scoutmaster in his 30s can have consensual sex with a 13-year-old in his Scout troop is something dreamt up in pedophile heaven,” attorney Michael Dowd told the New York Law Journal in 2006 after a judge rejected the Scouts’ motion. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

In other cases as well, Scout leaders have faulted the victim and defended the perpetrator. “They threw my son under the bus,” said the father of a Florida Scout who was 12 when a 16-year-old Scout lured him into a tent and molested him in 2007. The boy was so traumatized that he remained silent for months, he and his father said in an interview. When the boy finally spoke up, local Scout leaders accused him of lying.

“(He) is quick to make up stories,” the troop’s merit badge counselor, Chuck Janson, wrote in a two-page memo supporting the assailant, who later admitted to the sexual assault in a plea deal.

The boy’s father pressed prosecutors to file charges for three years. When they did and threatened Robbie Brehm with the prospect of 15 years in prison, he confessed to the sexual assault and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated battery.

"Today," BSA claims, "any adult who wants to join Scouting must pass a criminal background check, but the BSA began collecting information on those ineligible to be volunteers well before computers and other electronic databases were available. The process that exists today is much the same as it was then and has proven to be effective in keeping potentially dangerous or inappropriate individuals out of Scouting."  (

The many lawsuits -- settled, pending, and yet to come -- would suggest otherwise. Be sure your stakeholder messages aren't painting smiles on your mask. Get rid of the mask so that you have one consistent message, in and out of court. Second, you won't make any friends if you blame the victim or perceived victim. If you're one of those who think you can try that strategy, it must be your mother's fault.

No comments: