Boy Scout Perversion Files
The Boy Scouts’ “perversion files” were a running list of abuse allegations. Many of the abusers on the list were removed from positions in the organization. However, the Boy Scouts did not report the abuse to local law enforcement agencies.
A 2010 lawsuit filed by six former scouts forced the organization to hand over the files. The lawsuit ended with a win for the plaintiffs and an award of $18.5 million in punitive damages. Shortly after, in 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Boy Scouts to publicly release the secret files.
In a civil lawsuit, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff on top of other compensation. Punitive damages financially punish the defendant and discourage similar behavior in the future.
The “perversion files” total more than 15,000 pages. After their release, The New York Times reported the documents identified 1,247 abusive scout leaders between 1965 and 1985. However, recent research shows even greater numbers of abusers detailed in the files.
In 2019, Janet Warren, a professor at the University of Virginia, released her findings after reviewing the files. The Boy Scouts began compiling the files following World War I. Warren’s research identified 7,819 abusers active in the organization between 1944 and 2016. Cumulatively, Warren’s research identified 12,254 victims.
The list was meant to document abuse and keep abusers out of the organization. But, several of the listed abusers managed to stay active in the Boy Scouts. The incidents on the list weren’t reported to the police and the list wasn’t published publicly. This allowed many abusers to move from troop to troop, continuing their abuse.
The “perversion files” offer a glimpse into decades of abuse in the organization. However, experts agree the list isn’t the complete picture. Reporting child sexual abuse can be very difficult for victims. It can take decades for a victim to heal and feel safe enough to report abuse. There could be thousands more unaccounted victims of Boy Scouts sex abuse.