A Court Orders the Boy Scouts to Release Files on Sexual Abuse

The Oregon Supreme Court approves access to over 1,200 confidential files that Scout officials have long maintained should be kept secret.
A landmark Oregon lawsuit that resulted in the largest judgment ever against the Scouts in a molestation case is still having reverberations today. (Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty)
Jun 14, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

Where have we heard this story before? An extremely hierarchical organization known for secrecy has been hiding allegations of sexual abuse for years until a court forces it to open its files. If you thought you knew who was behind Door Number One, guess again.

“The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of 1,247 confidential Boy Scouts of America files, the first step toward publicly lifting the veil on 20 years of alleged child sexual abuse by troop leaders and others within the organization,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

The article goes on to say, “Also known as the ‘ineligible volunteer’ or ‘perversion’ files, the 20,000 pages ordered to be unsealed span two decades beginning in 1965, a portion of such records the Scouts have kept under lock and key since the 1920s. The files 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.”

When that lawsuit was making headlines back in 2010, NPR said that according to depositions from 1983, assistant scoutmaster Timur Dykes confessed, “that he had molested 17 boys. At least one family pursued charges with the police. Dykes was placed on probation and told to stay away from kids, but he was allowed to keep volunteering at scouting events.”

The NPR report also noted that, the Boy Scouts had “made several arguments in its defense. It says local troops operate independently from the national organization, and its efforts to deal with abuse were responsible by the standards of the 1980s. In his closing argument, Charles Smith, an attorney for the Scouts, said it was common sense to handle the situation with some secrecy.”

Really, common sense? And the Scouts secrecy defense persists to this day even though the court ordered that the files be made public only after the names of victims and others who reported sexual abuse are redacted.

Reacting to Thursday’s Oregon Supreme Court ruling, the Los Angeles Times reports, “Scouts officials have long contended that the records must be kept confidential to protect the privacy of victims and those who report sexual abuse, as well as those who face unproved accusations.”

To quote Georg Simmel, a 19th-century German sociologist, “Secrecy involves a tension which, at the moment of revelation, finds its release.” In other words, the truth needs to be told.

Do you think the Boy Scouts’ records should have been made public?

Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence

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