Fifty former New Jersey Boy Scout leaders who allegedly sexually abused young boys were among thousands included in the organization’s nationwide “perversion files,” released Tuesday by a law firm advocating for victims.
Their names were revealed in documents maintained by the Boy Scouts of America known as the “Ineligible Volunteer Files,” said attorney Jeff Anderson. The files include the names of 7,819 people whom the Boy Scouts believe “were involved in sexually abusing a child,” he said.
At a news conference in Newark, Anderson disclosed the names of the 50 former leaders from New Jersey. The law firm also identified 130 former leaders from New York. He did not release any names from Pennsylvania.
The lawyers were joined by advocates and survivors who pushed for better notification and tougher victims’ rights laws.
“This is about the institution failing to do the right thing, failing to disclose the names,” said Greg Gianforcaro, a lawyer with the firm. “They should be up here issuing the names of their leaders.”
Among those identified by Anderson were 14 former South Jersey troop leaders, from Atlantic City, Berlin, Cherry Hill, Collingswood, Egg Harbor, Hammonton, McGuire Air Force Base, Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Rancocas Woods, Runnemede, West Berlin, and Woodlynne.
It was unclear whether authorities in those areas had investigated any of the alleged perpetrators. Because of the lack of details surrounding the cases, The Inquirer is not disclosing the names.
In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America, based in Irving, Texas, said every instance of suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement. The organization said all of the names identified by Anderson are publicly available and all of the former leaders had been removed from scouting.
“We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting,” the statement said. “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.”
Anderson said the Boy Scouts “have had a long-standing practice of keeping perversion files of scout leaders and masters dating back to at least 1944 who raped and violated and molested children under their charge.” But it was only recently that the magnitude was revealed during a Minnesota sexual abuse case, he said.
Anderson called the discovery “shocking and alarming.” He called for the Boy Scouts to release more detailed background information on all perpetrators.
It is believed that there are more than 12,000 victims, Anderson said. He did not indicate how many of those victims were from New Jersey.
In Pennsylvania, the issue of Scout leaders’ abusing boys has not been a prominent issue, and it is unclear to what extent it is a problem.
According to the law firm’s website, the list of names of Boy Scout leaders accused of sexual misconduct with minors was compiled from publicly available sources. In some cases, lawsuits have been filed but most of the claims have not been evaluated in civil or criminal courts.
“But they never alerted the community. They may have taken them out of leadership positions, or they may not have,” Anderson said. “They’re your neighbor. Your teacher. Your electrician. Your priest.”
Mark Crawford, a survivor of clergy abuse, who spoke at the news conference, welcomed the release of the names of the accused abusers, but said he was not surprised by the numbers. He said he hopes that making the information public will empower victims.
“This information is so important, that the public comes to know that these predators are still working, living among us, unbeknown to most of us,” Crawford said. “We should be angry and moved to action.”
Advocates Tuesday also called on Gov. Phil Murphy to sign legislation aimed at making it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek damages in court. The legislation, which cleared both houses, would allow victims to sue until they turn 55 or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm.
The current limit is two years. Adult victims also would have seven years from the discovery of the abuse.
The bill also would give a two-year window to victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations and allows victims to pursue claims as individuals as well as institutions.
There is no criminal statute of limitations in such cases in New Jersey.
Anderson also released the testimony of Janet Warren, a child abuse expert, who testified in January 2019 in a case in Minneapolis involving allegations of child abuse at a children’s theater.
Warren, a professor at the University of Virginia, was hired by the Boy Scouts and spent five years reviewing the “perversion files,” according to her testimony. She said she reviewed documents from 1944 to 2016 that contained the names of 7,819 perpetrators who the Boy Scouts “believe were involved in sexually abusing a child” and had their registrations revoked.