An expert hired by the Boy Scouts of America to review allegations of child sexual abuse within the organization identified 7,819 alleged abusers among its leaders and volunteers dating back to 1944, according to a newly released court document.
Of the files examined over five years, 12,254 alleged victims were identified, Dr. Janet Warren, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia’s medical school, testified in late January.
“They’re called ineligible volunteer files and these are files that [the BSA] created. Individuals who have had their registration with the Boy Scouts revoked because of reasonable allegations of child sexual abuse,” Warren told the court.
The BSA’s so-called “perversion files” were released in 2012 though the exact number of alleged abusers and victims listed within it was not known, said attorney Jeff Anderson, who shared Warren’s testimony at a press conference on Tuesday.
“That is a number not known before today or ever revealed by the Boy Scouts of America,” he said.
Warren, at a press conference on Wednesday, defended the BSA’s handling of the abuse allegations and its so-called Volunteer Screening Database, stating that based on her own review, “it has worked very well.”
“The data demonstrated that the scouting program is safe,” she said, adding that all cases of abuse were reported to authorities and that she found no sign of a cover-up by the BSA. When it comes to the rate of sexual child abuse within the organization, she said it is less than in society as a whole.
Warren went on to echo a similar recommendation made by BSA executives on Wednesday for the creation of a nationwide database for offenders who have never been arrested or convicted but have been accused or suspected of abusing a child. Such a database would prevent potential offenders from engaging in youth services and would track participating adults.
Anderson’s law firm has been working to identify how many of the individuals named in the BSA’s files live in New York or New Jersey. It’s also representing some of the former scouts, he said on Tuesday.
“In New York alone, in these files, there are 130 of these perpetrators,” he said. In New Jersey, there were 50 found.
Both New York and New Jersey are working toward adjusting their statute of limitations laws so that abuse victims have more time to pursue legal damages.
New York state has passed a law that will allow such lawsuits beginning in August while a similar bill in New Jersey has reached the governor’s desk. Similar bills to amend statute-of-limitation laws also are pending in Pennsylvania and California, The Associated Press reported.
A representative for the BSA said in an email to HuffPost on Wednesday, “Every instance of suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement,” including ones that went back decades ago.
“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. 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 BSA said.
The organization added that when a suspected abuser is added to its Volunteer Screening Database they are removed entirely from any Scouting program.
“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,” the BSA said.
According to a USA Today report on Wednesday, there have been more than 200 new cases of sexual abuse within the BSA in recent weeks. A group of attorneys has also identified 150 alleged pedophiles that have never before been publicly accused.
Anderson, whose law firm has pursued sexual abuse lawsuits involving clergy members, called the list of allegations “shocking” while criticizing the BSA for in his belief having not done more sooner.
“The Boy Scouts had reason to put them in their perversion files and the Boy Scouts chose to keep those perversion files secret until ordered by courts to reveal them,” he said of the list of suspected abusers. “They may have taken them out of leadership positions, or they may not have, but they never alerted the community.”
This story has been updated with additional comment from Warren.