Over 1,200 files on accused child molesters in the Boy Scouts are now public record. The Boy Scouts of America created these particular “Ineligible Volunteer Files” – which they call the “Perversion Files” – between approximately 1960 and 1985. They were used as exhibits in a 2010 trial against the Scouts in Portland, Oregon, by a man who had been sexually abused by his Scoutmaster when he was 13. The Oregon Supreme Court later ordered that these files be made public with the names of victims and people who reported the abuse blacked out.
The national office of the Boy Scouts kept files on accused pedophiles since at least 1920, and maybe as early as 1911, when the Scouts first formed, and still keeps these files. The BSA ostensibly uses the files as a blacklist to try to keep child molesters from volunteering – checking names of those registering to volunteer against the names in the files. The public files are those existing Perversion files that the Boy Scouts created between around 1960 and 1985.
In other lawsuits and in public statements, the BSA has tried to argue that the number of child molesters in Scouting is very small compared to the general population, because the number of Perversion Files is very small compared to the number of adult volunteers in Scouting. The BSA makes this argument to try to minimize the risk to children in Scouting or knowledge of the problem of abuse in Scouting by the Boy Scouts.
The BSA’s argument is faulty on many levels. For starters, it ignores the damage to children injured by sexual abuse. To the 12-year-old little boy abused by his Scoutmaster, it doesn’t matter if he is one of 100 or one of 1,000 – his damage is not a statistic.
Setting aside, if possible, the qualitative flaw in the Boy Scout’s argument, it is also quantitatively wrong. The existing Perversion Files do not come close to accurately representing the total number of adult volunteers who abused children in Scouting, let alone the total number of Scouts who were abused. This is true for several reasons, some of which are explained below.
1) THE BSA COVERED UP THE EXISTENCE OF THE PERVERSION FILES
The most significant reason why the BSA Perversion Files represent only the tip of the iceberg is because the entire Ineligible Volunteer (“IV”) File system was an internal system used only by paid employees of the Boy Scouts. Scout families, troop volunteers, and sponsoring organizations did not know the IV File system existed, how to use it, or that they should use it. The BSA intentionally chose to keep the IV file system a secret from volunteers and to exclude all volunteers from participation in the IV File system.
Typically, the national office of the BSA created IV Files based on reports from employees of Boy Scout Councils, usually the Scouting Executives of the Councils. There was no BSA policy, method, or practice of involving the lower levels of the Scout organization in the IV File system. On the contrary, BSA covered up the system from everyone other than certain paid Scout employees. The sponsoring organizations and troops did not know about or participate in creating an IV File on an adult volunteer accused of sexually molesting a Scout, although the people involved at the Troop level were those with the most immediate information. The BSA only created a file if the matter happened to come to the attention of a Council employee – usually through news stories or law enforcement – and that Council employee knew to report the matter to the BSA, which many did not.
Because the national BSA never told troops or families about the IV File system or trained them to use it, it is estimated that the vast majority of abuse incidents in Scouting were never reported to the national office – meaning there would be no IV Files for these incidents.
2) THE BSA DESTROYED AN UNKNOWN NUMBER OF PERVERSION FILES
The second problem with the Boy Scout’s argument is that the number of existing Perversion Files does not reflect the number of files that the Boy Scouts created. The national headquarters of the Boy Scouts is solely responsible for creating, maintaining, and using the IV File system to track and blackball certain individuals from volunteering with the Boy Scouts. The largest category of individuals barred from registering as volunteers are those in the Perversion Files – those accused of sexually molesting children.
Over the years, the Boy Scouts have destroyed an unknown number of Perversion files. Through at least the 1980s, the Boy Scouts regularly culled the files to remove the files of deceased and elderly perpetrators. For many years, the Boy Scout policy was to destroy the file of anyone who was older than 72. Once a file was destroyed, there was no record that the person had ever been barred from Scouting. In theory, a 73-year-old pedophile who had been banned from registering as a volunteer would be approved by the Boy Scouts because there would be no record of his past Perversion File.
In the 1970s, the Boy Scouts reviewed all of the Perversion files that existed at that point – estimated at over 4,000 files – and destroyed “at least half” of those files.
They kept no record of the files destroyed.
Because of the Boy Scout’s systematic destruction of files, there is no way to know or even estimate the total number of Perversion Files on child molesters that the Boy Scouts created over the years.
3) BSA’s “PROBATION” SYSTEM HID ACCUSED MOLESTERS
Another reason the existing BSA Perversion Files do not show the extent of the problem of child abuse in Scouting is because the Boy Scouts had a “probation” policy up until the 1980s. A man put on probation was not kicked out, but could continue to serve as a Scoutmaster. If there were no complaints or accusations for two years, the BSA’s policy was to destroy the man’s probation file, but there were no other restrictions of safeguards on his continued participation. Once the file was destroyed, there was no record that the man had ever been accused or put on probation.
The now-public files include many examples of the BSA allowing accused pedophiles to actively participate with troops on a probationary basis.
Sometimes, men were put on probation because the BSA did not believe the allegations were serious enough to kick them out. For example, one file from Colorado shows that Floyd David Slusher was put on probation after confessing that he had sexually molested a Scout over a three or four year period. He continued to serve as a Scoutmaster for four years. The BSA finally kicked him out when he was convicted for having sex with an 11-year-old Scout in his troop. The saddest part of this story is shown in the police report in Slusher’s Boy Scout IV File, when the police concluded:
“During the interviews . . . [the police] learned of many other victims too numerous to interview. It has been learned that almost every boy in troop 75 and troop 73 has been approached sexually by Slusher on one time or another. . . . It is evident, however, that Slusher, through his sexual assaults on young boys, has affected emotionally, many young lives.”
Worse than putting accused molesters on probation initially, the BSA sometimes allowed Ineligible Volunteers with existing Perversion files to return to Scouting on a probationary basis. For example, one file shows that Richard Cremins Watterson was kicked out of the Scouts in 1967, based on reports that he had repeatedly fondled an eight-year-old boy, his 11-year-old brother, and at least one other Scout on camping trips.
In 1976, knowing that Watterson was in a Perversion File, the BSA allowed him to re-register as an Assistant Scoutmaster and volunteer on the Council camping committee. The only restriction on his activities was that the BSA noted in his Perversion file that he was on probation for the next two years. 15 months later, the man was arrested for sodomizing an 11-year-old Scout.
Files like these show how the Boy Scout’s Ineligible File system failed to work because so many men on probation went on to abuse more children.
But the files also demonstrate that there are no existing records of the unknown number of probation files the BSA destroyed simply because the bad guy was clever enough to not get caught again during his two-year probation.
CONCLUSION AND CALL TO ACTION For these reasons and others, the existing BSA Perversion files only show the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how many young boys involved in Scouting were molested and sexually exploited by adult Scout volunteers and Scout employees.
Any arguments by the BSA that there were statistically fewer child molesters involved in the Boy Scouts than in the general population is either flat out false or impossible to prove, because of the actions of the BSA itself.
It is time for the BSA to stop trying to minimize the problem of child sexual abuse in Scouting and to take responsibility for its actions in failing to protect children in its organization. To start with, the Boy Scouts of America should take the following immediate steps:
OPEN THE BSA INELIGIBLE VOLUNTEER FILE SYSTEM: The BSA should train all members of the Scouting community in the existence and use of the IV File system. If Scouts, parents, troop volunteers, and sponsoring organizations knew about the IV File system and how to use it, more child abusers would get reported to BSA (and the police) and would be excluded from future participation in Scouting. Also, child molesters would avoid Scouting if they knew they risked being turned in to the national BSA office and put on the Ineligible Volunteer list.
MAKE ALL HISTORIC PERVERSION FILES PUBLIC: The BSA should make all its Perversion Files available to the public, with the names of victims and reporters blacked out. The files contain an enormous amount of data on how child abusers operate that could be used by child safety experts and others to make other youth-serving organizations safer for children. This information needs to be available.