LOS ANGELES -- The veil was lifted Thursday on decades of confidential sexual abuse allegations in the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America with the court-ordered release of more than 1,200 of the organization's "perversion files."
The files 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.
"The secrets are out," said Kelly Clark, one of the plaintiff's lawyers in an Oregon lawsuit that resulted in a nearly $20 million judgment against the Scouts in 2010. "Child abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems are where it breeds. And these secrets are out."
Clark's office made the files public - minus the names of victims and others who reported suspected abuse -- after the Oregon Supreme Court ordered their release in June at the request of news organizations including the Oregonian newspaper of Portland, Oregon Public Broadcasting, The New York Times and The Associated Press.
The Los Angeles Times is incorporating the 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 Los Angeles Times database can be found at http://spreadsheets.latimes.com/boyscouts-cases/.
In a statement Thursday, the Boy Scouts' national president, Wayne Perry, underscored the organization's enhanced child-protection efforts in recent years, including beefed-up background checks and training of leaders and mandatory reporting of all suspected abuse.
He also acknowledged that incidents of abuse have occurred, some mishandled by the Scouts.
"There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong," Perry said. "Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families."
In recent months, the Times has published an investigation of those files and thousands of case summaries from 1940 to 2005. The files and summaries were obtained from Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, who has sued the Scouts on behalf of dozens of abuse victims.
The Times investigation has revealed a broad range of patterns in the Scouts' handling of abuse allegations that echo similar revelations about the Catholic Church and, more recently, the Penn State scandal involving assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
On Wednesday, the Times reported that the files revealed a clear pattern of grooming behavior, in which men seduced their young victims.