Decades of confidential sexual abuse allegations from within the Boy Scouts of America will spill into public view later today when more than 1,200 of the organization's "perversion files" are released by order of the Oregon Supreme Court.
The files will offer the public an unprecedented look at how suspected molestations were handled by one of the nation's leading youth organizations from the early 1960s through 1985, a time when awareness of sexual abuse was evolving rapidly.
At 11:30 a.m., the Los Angeles Times will begin incorporating the court files into its own online database, which contains information on nearly 5,000 such cases spanning 1947 to January 2005. The database offers a complete record of files during that period except for an unknown number of files that have been purged by the Scouts over the years. In more than 300 cases, the allegations involve someone with ties to a troop or unit in California.
The abuse reports to be released today played a key role as evidence in a landmark Oregon lawsuit in 2010 that resulted in the largest judgment ever against the Scouts in a molestation case. A jury awarded nearly $20 million to a man who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s, ruling that the Scouts had failed to protect him.
Afterward, the Boy Scouts petitioned to keep the files closed, a move opposed by media outlets seeking their full disclosure. In June, the Oregon Supreme Court sided with the Oregonian newspaper, the Associated Press, the New York Times, Oregon Public Broadcasting and other outlets and ordered their release after victim information had been redacted.
In recent months, The Times has published a series of stories analyzing an overlapping set of files -- nearly 1,900 cases, opened between 1970 and 1991, given to the newspaper by a Seattle attorney. Among other things, the analysis found that hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse were never reported to law enforcement, and Scouting officials repeatedly helped alleged molesters cover their tracks.
As The Times reported Wednesday, the files show a clear pattern of "grooming behavior" that alleged molesters used to seduce their victims, and often to ensure their silence.
Media organizations from across the country are expected to mine the files released later today, and legal experts say some of the revelations in the files could lead to lawsuits against the Boy Scouts over their handling of alleged abuse.
The Scouts have warned that the release of the files could have a chilling effect on the reporting of alleged abuse. For nearly a century, the Scouts have maintained the national archive, known inside the organization as the "perversion files," as a way of preventing men suspected of abuse from reentering Scouting.
Although never intended for public release, hundreds of files have been submitted as evidence in lawsuits over the years, generally under seal.
The files contain detailed -- though often incomplete -- accounts of alleged abuse, including handwritten accounts by young victims, court records, police reports and correspondence between local and national Scout officials. Many of the alleged incidents were never reported to the police, so the allegations have not been heard in court.
The Oregon Supreme Court ordered information about the alleged abuse victims redacted from the files. The names, however, of 1,247 men who were expelled from Scouting because of the allegations in the files will be released to the public.
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