The tragedy of child abuse, be it physical, sexual, or emotional is one that is truly heartbreaking.
Painfully, there have been incidents of abuse that occurred in our program, and we sincerely apologize that some despicable individuals used their positions in Scouting to harm children.
First and foremost, the Boy Scouts of America believes victims. To those who were harmed – we grieve with you, we respect you, and we want to help you heal. Over the years, Scouting has provided counseling for victims, no questions asked, for as long as they needed it. Our commitment and responsibility to victims is in keeping with the tenants of the Scout Oath and Law – it’s at the core of everything we stand for. That means we want victims to receive fair compensation, and we are committed to finding the best way to do that.
We are also committed to fulfilling our duty to serve the millions of youth and families currently in our programs. Those Scouts and families count on us to deliver life-changing character and leadership opportunities provided by the outdoor adventure methods of Scouting. And, the safety of the youth in our programs is paramount.
I want to be clear – the Boy Scouts of America has never knowingly allowed those who have committed inappropriate acts with children to remain in our program.
Long before there were smart phones, email, fax machines, the internet, criminal databases or other modern methods available to identify or track predators, the BSA kept records to ensure that anyone seen as unfit to be a leader – even those not charged or convicted of any crime, would be banned forever from our program.
The BSA never covered up the fact that it kept that database. In fact, that database has been the subject of various public news reports over the years.
The creation of that database was just the first step in the BSA’s development of a comprehensive set of strategies designed to provide the best possible youth protection system. Today, record-keeping or databases such as ours are now recommended by experts as an important step in protecting children.
In addition to other protective measures, all participants in Scouting are considered Mandatory Reporters, and as such, are required to report any suspected abuse to the appropriate state child protection authorities. We fully cooperate with law enforcement and wholeheartedly support the prosecution and punishment of convicted individuals.
And while the BSA’s database of those banned from Scouting has been used against the organization and made us more vulnerable to lawsuits, if we could go back in time to the 1920s when these records were first created, we would decide to keep them again and again because we firmly believe that doing so has protected millions of kids who have been in our program over the last century.
Scouting is always premised on helping others.
I ask every member of our Scouting family to continue upholding his or her duty to others and to our country by standing up for victims. Believe victims. Support victims on their journey to becoming survivors.
Be outspoken and be advocates for youth protection and prevention of child abuse – in and outside of Scouting.
Do your Good Turn Daily and find ways to support victims of past abuse, speak and act boldly to protect children presently in our program, and spread the good works of Scouting so that we may continue to positively change lives for future generations of children.
BSA Chief Scout Executive