Lesson about confronting child abuse allegations


Records coming to light as a result of litigation against Irving-based Boy Scouts of America demonstrate yet again the fundamental lesson about handling child molestation allegations: The interests of institutions can’t override the obligation to protect the most vulnerable.

Time and again, it’s been shown that when adults ignored or covered up or denied or simply failed to follow through, abusers were enabled, children got hurt and justice wasn’t served.

The Catholic Church, Penn State University and others can attest to how damaging scandal avoidance, head-turning and buck-passing by the powerful can be, especially to the powerless.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the Boy Scouts too often didn’t report abuse allegations to authorities, sometimes didn’t tell parents about incidents or let alleged molesters leave the organization quietly, which allowed some to find other victims.

The Times report Sunday, based on 1,600 confidential files spanning 1970 to 1991, said that in several hundred cases “there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police” and that “in more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it.” (lat.ms/QkaWVn)

The information came from files the Scouts kept ostensibly to prevent unacceptable individuals from working with children. The report cited incidents in which local Scouting adults raised complaints but it wasn’t clear whether or how they were followed up on. Sometimes, men well-regarded in the group were eased out so they wouldn’t be publicly embarrassed. In some cases, those men were criminally convicted later.

Since 2010, the Scouts have required that even suspicions of abuse be reported to law enforcement. Volunteers must undergo youth protection training. And background checks are done on staffers and volunteers.

In a statement to the Times, BSA said, “The Boy Scouts of America believes even a single instance of abuse is unacceptable, and we regret there have been times when the BSA’s best efforts to protect children were insufficient.” (bit.ly/OSTzuP)

And on Monday, BSA posted on its website and Facebook page an open letter to parents from Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock, saying the organization is “committed to consistently strengthening and enhancing our Youth Protection measures.” But he also said that “constant vigilance is the best protection.” (bit.ly/V5wdCD)

It’s good that groups and individuals working with children have come to understand that vigilance, not self-preservation, is key. That lesson has been a difficult and painful one for some to learn.

(The Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
(MCT Information Services)

Source: The Korea Herald