I have been involved in scouting for as long as I can remember.
I was a five-year-old tiger cub in Cub Scouts and later became an 18-year-old Eagle Scout. Scouting has been my home for more than half my life. So when I learned about the organization’s more than 1,200 suspected cases of sexual abuse between the 1960s and 1985 that had been covered up, I was in denial.
How can an organization, that teaches young boys and men to be trustworthy and morally straight, be covering up all these cases?
What did it stand to gain from covering up something that would only be worse when it finally came out?
I couldn’t fathom that an organization I respected and worked with would do something so crooked. I guess I could say I felt betrayed.
When I was a Scout I never dealt with the main organization very much, other than occasionally running down to the scout shop to pick up a few badges and my Eagle board of review. Instead I was concerned with my troop, Troop 316, and the activities and policies there.
Scouts had more important things to do than worry, such as earning rank and merit badges, attending summer camp and helping plan the next troop outing.
I had a blast. My troop would put on some great events, like guns and rockets, which was exactly what it sounds like: awesome.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though.
During my time in Scouts I learned a lot of different and valuable skills that I normally wouldn’t learn in a school curriculum. While not used in everyday life, knot tying, first aid (not just one class, but thoroughly integrated throughout the seven-year program) and wilderness survival are all knowledge I have called upon in my adult life. Not to mention the personal finance merit badge that is a requirement for all Eagle Scouts, which I have found absolutely invaluable since acquiring currency.
It’s a shame parents will probably shy away from an organization that was built on sound moral principles in light of these documents being released. A vast majority of troops are not at all associated with these awful acts.
Even Boy Scouts of America itself has openly recognized this (although a bit too late) and placed measures to prevent these instances of sexual abuse.
As of the late 1980s, Boy Scout leaders must participate in extensive Youth Protection training to teach its leaders to prevent, to recognize and to report sexual abuse within the organization.
“After decades of shying away from the problem, the Scouts have created what many child abuse experts call one of the best sex abuse education programs in the country,” said a 1991 Washington Times article, which investigated early Boy Scout sex abuse cover ups.
Even with these changes, the fact that there are still untrustworthy people who are only willing to disclose information because they were forced to by government leaves me heartbroken.
Not reporting any of these cases of abuse to the police, significantly marginalizes the ideals that Robert Baden-Powell hoped to teach young boys and men when he founded the scouting movement. With more than 2.5 million Scouts and more than a million scout leaders, there are unfortunately and understandably going to be a few bad apples.
Turns out there were about 5,000 bad apples over a 50-year period, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This wouldn’t be such a horrifying number if the Boy Scouts of America weren’t so keen on trying to sweep them under the rug. It seems like they don’t understand it’s not the fact that sexual abuse happened, but it’s the way they have been handling the cases this far that makes it such an embarrassment.
Has the organization completely lost all my respect by covering these cases up? No, but I certainly don’t hold it to the same high regard I used to.
The ideals the Boy Scouts of America teaches young boys and men are sound. Now if only the people running it would follow them.