We need to hold Boy Scouts accountable for hiding abuse

While declaring of bankruptcy may signal that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is finally willing to acknowledge culpability for the sexual abuse it allowed over decades, this action seems like much too little, too late, and the BSA need to demonstrate an understanding that this is about more than protecting assets and their financial welfare.

Though this filing ensures that victims will get compensation they otherwise may not have if the organization went under, the nature of a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy dictates that there will be a deadline for claims– although this deadline has not yet been determined.

Because of the deadline, victims must step forward, possibly before they feel ready to do so, if they want any sort of financial compensation. But victims should not have to face this unfair choice. They should only come forward if or when they are emotionally ready to do so.

Jim Turley, the national chair of the Boy Scouts of America, wrote
in an open letter that the organization declared bankruptcy so it could pay victims what they deserve, and has even encouraged victims to step forward and file claims.

However, given their history of ignoring claims and reluctance to publish records of sexual abuse, we can’t help but wonder if the organization is simply once again trying to escape responsibility for its actions (or lack thereof).

The BSA kept records which show that more than 12,000 children reported sexual abuse spanning back to the 1940s. Yet the records were only made fully public after an Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release in 2012.

In many cases, the reports were not properly reported or handled
in a legal manner. According to a New York Times article, “In 2012, an extensive investigation by The Los Angeles Times found hundreds of cases in which accusations were not reported to law enforcement, or were kept hidden from family members.”

This is fairly damning evidence that there was little internal initiative over the course of those 70 years to fix or address the wrongs that were being committed.

Covering up the extent of the situation is a common thread among cases of sexual abuse; oftentimes stories of sexual abuse are kept under wraps in order to protect the “good name” of a company or organization. Such was the case with the Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics. And interestingly enough all 3 organizations chose to handle the situation in a similar matter; they addressed the situation only after facing intense public pressure.

Suppressing stories of assault in order to protect an organization’s good name is immoral because it perpetuates a culture of abuse. This lack of transparency should not be tolerated.

In addition to the issue of sexual abuse, the BSA has held antiquated positions for far too long in terms of banning openly gay children from being scouts and openly gay adults from being leaders. This further demonstrates BSA’s willingness to hold immoral positions and disregard the well-being of its scouts and leaders. Nobody should be discriminated against for their sexuality or be forced to hide who they are.

Only in 2014 did the BSA finally establish that children could not be denied membership based on sexual orientation, and in 2015 they lifted their ban on adults who are “open or avowed homosexuals” from leadership positions.

In addition to opening their ranks to the LGBTQIA+ population, it
is important to acknowledge that the Boy Scouts has in recent years made efforts to better track and report sexual abuse. Criminal background checks are required for all volunteers. Volunteers, parents and scouts all undergo mandatory training for recognizing and reporting abuse. And a policy has been implemented that prohibits one-on-one situations between children and adults.

But there is a difference between implementing change and admitting culpability, and it still seems as though the BSA wants to accomplish the first without having to take on the second.

Enough is enough. We must do our best to hold the BSA fully accountable for the harm it turned a blind eye to, again and again.
At the moment, the Boy Scouts of America is failing to uphold the very values that it supposedly teaches to its scouts: integrity and morality, among others.

The Boy Scouts of America, if it so chooses, can lead by example. As a venerated organization that supposedly espouses core American values, it has the power and responsibility to do right by its victims. Only if it is willing to take on this task will the BSA be able to one day resume its role as a meaningful and influential cultural institution.