More than 12,000 Boy Scout members were victims of sexual abuse, expert says
Reports of sex abuse in the organization isn't new but the scope is.
An expert who has been working with the Boy Scouts revealed that there may have been as many as 7,819 allegedly sexually abusive troop leaders and volunteers in the storied organization, according to newly released court documents.
More than 7,800 individuals allegedly abused 12,254 victims, according to the court testimony.
These figures were released Tuesday by attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm regularly represents victims of sexual abuse and has been involved in numerous clerical sexual abuse cases.
The new testimony was entered into the court record as part of a January trial about child sex abuse at a Minnesota children's theater company.
One of the expert witnesses who testified was Dr. Janet Warren, who is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia’s medical school.
Warren testified that she has been "on private contract" with the Boy Scouts of America for the past five years, evaluating its handling of sexual abuse within the organization from 1944 through 2016.
Warren testified that she and her team worked with the group's ineligible volunteer files, which have sometimes been referred to as perversion files.
In her January court appearance, Warren said that she and her team have coded through all of those files, determining that there were "7,819 perpetrators who they believe were involved in sexually abusing a child."
"From reviewing all these files, we identified 12,254 victims," Warren said.
Anderson publicly released those numbers at a news conference Tuesday, saying 130 of those perpetrators are in New York and could face legal repercussions. Earlier this year state lawmakers passed the Child Victims Act, which allows claims of sexual abuse from any time period to be brought forth in spite of existing statutes of limitations for one-year period starting in August.
“The disclosure made by Dr. Janet Warren really sounded the alarm to us,” Anderson said.
The Boy Scouts of America released a statement after the disclosure, expressing sympathy for the victims and noting the work the organization has done to protect children.
“We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice,” the organization said in a statement to ABC News. “Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children.”
The organization confirmed it has maintained the Volunteer Screening Database since the 1920s and “at no time have we ever knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with youth, and we mandate that all leaders, volunteers and staff members nationwide immediately report any abuse allegation to law enforcement.”
In the statement, officials also confirmed that Warren has worked with the Boy Scouts of America since 2013 to conduct ongoing research about the database and provide recommendations for improvement.
The existence of the abuse database is not new but the scope of the abuse is. In 2012, more than 14,000 pages of documents relating to abuse by 1,247 scout leaders was released in connection to a case in Oregon. That same year, The Los Angeles Times created a database detailing about 5,000 men and a small number of women tied to the Boy Scouts who were expelled in connection to sexual abuse.
Warren’s number shows a significant jump in that number and Anderson is calling for the Boy Scouts of America to make the list public.
“This is information that the Boy Scouts has and has had for several years... [and is still] keeping secret today,” Anderson said.
The Boy Scouts said "every instance of suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement."
"Additionally, all of the names on the 'Anderson List' are publicly available; all of these individuals were removed from Scouting and reported to law enforcement," the Boy Scouts said in a statement.
Critics, like Anderson, urge the Boy Scouts of America to be more transparent with the information they hold about the individuals facing allegations.
“The Boy Scouts of America have never actually released these names in any form that can be known to the public ... they never alerted the community that this teacher, this coach, this scout leader ... is known to be a child molester,” Anderson said.
The Boy Scouts did not respond to a request for comment on Anderson's claims that the entire list of 130 previously disclosed alleged abusers in New York should be made public.