As a sexual abuse scandal of unprecedented, epic proportions, the Netflix title only hints at the horrors uncovered in Wednesday’s documentary: “Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Thanks to a whistle blower, the revered century-old institution that was hailed as wholesome as Mom and apple pie was instead revealed to be a haven for pedophiles who took advantage of spending nights in the woods with groups of boys. These children were traumatized for the rest of their lives.
When it was uncovered in 2021 by whistle blower Michael Johnson, a former police detective hired as the Boy Scouts Youth Protection Director, the staggering figure — 82,000 criminal cases – forced the Boy Scouts into bankruptcy.
“From the bankruptcy in the state of Massachusetts alone,” Johnson, 63, said in a Zoom interview, “there were identified 2,068 survivors of sexual abuse for Boy Scouts of America.”
Documentary director Brian Knappenberger, 53, “sort of stumbled into this” when he was showing at Sundance his short film on this very subject: abused Boy Scouts in Idaho and the Mormon Church.
“That short film tangentially introduced me to the topic. Just as I was trying to get my head around the depth and scope of the problem, the Boy Scouts declared bankruptcy — and 82,000 claimants came forward.
“I just thought this number was absolutely staggering –and massively under reported. At that point, I switched gears and wanted to look and see what happened here. What did the Boy Scouts know? What did this number mean? And were the Boy Scouts safe? That was the beginning.”
It turned out that Boy Scouts of America, eager to preserve their reputation, habitually, silently, settled sexual abuse cases.
“The Boy Scouts were benefiting from a little known area called the civil statute of limitations,” Johnson explained. “Research and practice tells us it is maybe 20 or 30 years before they (abused victims) tell anyone, let alone law enforcement or therapists. They usually talk to their wife or a significant other.
“That has been long beyond most states’ criminal statute of limitations. So the Boy Scouts of America wasn’t being held accountable, primarily civilly.
“Criminal charges were filed (against perpetrators) and they would put people on their Perversion files and Ineligible Volunteer files. But the Boy Scouts had this exceptionally high level of civil lawsuits that were time bombs; the victims or survivors could not get access to justice.
“That all changed in the last five years or so when various states” gave a one-year extension. Without that legal protection, justice was delivered, alongside Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy.
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