Last Thursday, Boy Scouts of America was forced to release documentation of reports of sexual assault spanning a twenty year time period. The New York Times reports, “more than 15,000 pages detailing accusations of sexual abuse against 1,247 scout leaders between 1965 and 1985, with thousands of victims involved, perhaps many thousands…” While many of the assaults were reported to local law enforcement, these documents show that the officials and administrators of the Boy Scouts had “confidential files” on certain troop leaders, volunteers, and staff members, recording their actions as an internal measure, without reporting to external law enforcement agencies. Attorneys who filed charges against the Boy Scouts in Oregon claim that the secrecy of these internal documents protected over 1,000 child molesters and predators at the detriment of young men who were enrolled in the program.
Releasing these files to the public is an important step in seeking justice. Another is a congressional audit (which many child abuse prevention and intervention groups, lawyers for victims, and victims themselves are pushing for). The one that seems most important of all is addressing the way in which organizations handle and report cases of sexual assault. By addressing reports on a case by case basis, victims may not receive the same services depending on where in the country they live.
But recourse for alleged victims could prove far more elusive in states such as Alabama and New York, unless their tight time limits are changed or set aside…“Geography determines justice. That’s the problem,” said Paul Mones, an Oregon-based attorney who represented [one victim]. (Quote from the LA Times)
By recording files internally, instead of reporting directly to law enforcement, youth organizations are telling their participants that they are above the law or that the young person’s safety is not of the utmost importance. How to we teach young people that their health, well-being, and sexual safety are paramount? We offer prevention programming.
We institutionalize prevention programming into the framework of our organizational practices, both for the youth participants and for the coaches, group leaders, and organizational staff. We need to prioritize the young people we work with instead of remaining preoccupied with how a report may impact the life of the alleged perpetrator or our reputation in the community.
What are ways in which you’e institutionalized prevention at your community based organization?
For more information, head to the LA Times where they are tracking the reports on an interactive map