Over 1,200 files on accused child molesters in the Boy Scouts are now public record. The Boy Scouts of America created these particular files – which they call the “Perversion Files” – between 1965 and 1985They 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 recently ordered that these files can be made public, as long as the names of victims and people who reported the abuse are blacked out.
The national office of the Boy Scouts has kept files on accused pedophiles since at least 1920, and maybe as early as 1911, when the Scouts first formed. The Boy Scouts used the files as a blacklist to try to keep child molesters from volunteering – checking names of those registering to volunteer against the names of those in the files. The files that are now public are those existing Perversion files that the Boy Scouts created between 1965 and 1985.
In other lawsuits and in public statements, the Boy Scouts of America has tried to argue that the number of Perversion files has always been, and still is, very small compared to the number of adult volunteers in Scouting, thereby trying to minimize the risk to children or knowledge of the problem by the Boy Scouts.
This 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 experience shouldn’t be minimized down to 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) BSA COVERED UP THE EXISTENCE OF THE I.V. FILE SYSTEM
The most significant reason why the BSA IV Files represent only the tip of the iceberg is because it 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) BSA DESTROYED AN UNKNOWN NUMBER OF I.V. 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 “ineligible volunteer” 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 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.
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 file, when the police concluded:
“During the interviews . . . [the police] learned of many other victim’s 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 having sodomized 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.