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 files are from all over the country, including Baltimore and across Maryland.
"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, which like The Baltimore Sun is owned by Tribune Co., has incorporated the files into its own online database, which contains information on nearly 5,000 such cases from 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 about 90 cases, the allegations involve someone with ties to a troop or unit in Maryland.
The earliest Maryland case listed in the database occurred in 1959, in District Heights. The most recent occurred in 2004, in Clear Spring. A handful of Maryland cases in the database appear to be duplicated.
There are 16 cases listed in Baltimore between 1960 and 2003, the most for any Maryland location, though it is not clear whether all occurred within city limits. There are many cases listed in the surrounding suburbs.
For the Maryland cases, the database lists only the year the Boy Scouts created its file, the location and the troop or unit number. It includes more information for cases in other states, including the names of those accused of abuse.
Ethan Draddy, Scout Executive and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America's Baltimore Area Council, directed all questions regarding the database to the national organization's public relations team.
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 Roman Catholic Church and, more recently, the Penn State scandal involving former assistant football 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.
In September, the Times reported that the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.
Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign and helped many cover their tracks, allowing the molesters to cite bogus reasons for their departure.
In 80 percent of the 500 cases in which the Scouts were the first to learn about abuse, there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, the Times found.
Nine days after the Times' September report, the Boy Scouts announced it would conduct a comprehensive review of some 5,000 files going back to the 1940s and would report to law enforcement any cases it had not previously disclosed.