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Lawyer calls Boy Scouts’ response to sexual abuse scandal ‘grossly deficient’

For decades, the Boy Scouts of America maintained a confidential blacklist of staff and volunteers accused of sexual abuse. The magnitude of that list, known internally as the perversion files, is only now being realized. John Yang talks to Jeff Anderson, an attorney who represents abuse survivors, about the “grossly deficient” response from the Boy Scouts and why the files should be made public.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    2012 was a watershed moment for the Boy Scouts of America, when the country began learning about thousands of abuse allegations within the Scouts' volunteer ranks.

    It was revealed that the Scouts kept files on suspected child molesters, documents known as the perversion files.

    As John Yang tells us, there's new data that show the scope of the allegations was far more widespread than previously known.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, for the first time, we're learning the extent of those files revealed by a University of Virginia psychiatry professor hired by the Boy Scouts to review them.

    In an unrelated court case, she testified that that list dates back to 1944 and contains the names of at least 7,800 people believed to have abused more than 12,000 children.

    Attorney Jeff Anderson highlighted those numbers at a news conference this week. He represents survivors of child sexual abuse, and he joins us now.

    Mr. Anderson, thanks so much for joining us.

    Were you surprised when you heard those numbers?

  • Jeff Anderson:

    I wasn't surprised because, for years, we have known they have been harboring offenders and keeping these files.

    We didn't have the precise number until we got it from the expert on the witness stand. We have had some real appreciation for the magnitude of the problem. We just didn't have the precise number of victims and predators that they have harbored and kept in what they call the perversion files.

  • John Yang:

    The Boy Scouts gave us a statement today.

  • They say that:

    "We care deeply about all victims of child abuse, and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims. We support them. And we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice. Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting. And we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children."

    They also told us that all the names in these files have been reported to law enforcement.

    Do you think those — these names should be made public, in the same way that some of the Catholic Church files have been made public?

  • Jeff Anderson:

    When the Boy Scouts offer an apology and say that they have reported this to law enforcement, that really is a minimization and a passive inaction.

    The reality is that these names need to be known to the public, both the identities of these offenders across the country and the locations in which they offended that caused them to be put into the perversion files.

    And so when the Boy Scouts say they have reported to the police, they know, and as do everybody else in this field, that the police rarely can act on these cases because they have been held secret for so long. There are statutes of limitations, so they never get investigated, and they never get prosecuted, and they thus never get known.

    And that, thus, is inaction. So their apologies and their reports that they're reporting to the police are grossly deficient. What has to be done is what we did this week in releasing those names in New York and New Jersey and the locations of those offenders that we took from their files.

    And they have to do that nationally, so that the communities can be warned and children can be protected. The Boy Scouts of America are choosing to protect themselves, and not the kids.

  • John Yang:

    You mentioned statute of limitations. New York just passed a new law expanding, lengthening the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases. Other states are doing the same thing.

    Is this going to help hold the Boy Scouts accountable, help victims, survivors of child abuse have their day in court?

  • Jeff Anderson:

    The removal of the statute of limitations in New York and soon to be in New Jersey is going to hugely advance child protection and cause the Boy Scouts of America and other organizations to not only have to disclose the secrets and the identities of the offenders and those that chose to protect them, but be held accountable in a way they never have had to, because they have been able to hide behind the statute of limitations and use that as a sword and a shield.

    The removal of that statute of limitations in New York and elsewhere is now going to advance child protection and going to require these institutions to come clean and speak truth.

  • John Yang:

    The Boy Scouts say they continue to evaluate their financial situation. Are you concerned — or what would a bankruptcy by the Boy Scouts do to plaintiffs like the ones you represent?

  • Jeff Anderson:

    Well, look, if the Boy Scouts go into reorganization, what they call Chapter 11, what they really do is stop litigation in its tracks, and keep us and the survivors from disclosing and discouraging all this information to protect kids.

    I expect they may do that. And they may claim that they don't have the ability to pay these claims. But the real reality is that they and a lot of the Roman Catholic Church diocese use the bankruptcy to really continue to hide and shield themselves from real liability and forced disclosure.

    So, if they use a Chapter 11 reorganization, it will be a challenge. But, in the meantime, we will continue to work with the survivors to disclose these long-held secrets, force the Boy Scouts of America nationwide to come clean, and disclose the identities, so, in the end, kids can be protected much better in the future than they are today.

  • John Yang:

    Attorney Jeff Anderson, thank you very much.

  • Jeff Anderson:

    You're welcome.

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