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Boy Scouts Of America Publish Sex Abuse Files
Confidential papers showing US scout leaders covered up alleged sexual abuse inflicted on their young members have been published.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has released decades worth of so-called "perversion files", showing how a range of authorities - from police to church pastors - quietly allowed scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children to go free.
In many instances - more than a third, according to the Scouts' own count - police were not told about the reports of abuse. And even when they were, sometimes local law enforcement did nothing, seeking to protect the reputation of scouting.
The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the papers, dating from 1959 to 1985 - and a handful from later years - to be released, despite objections played out in a lengthy legal battle from the Scouts.
The 14,500 pages of confidential files, including handwritten notes, reveal details of alleged abuses by more than 1,200 scout leaders and other adults.
Officially called the Boy Scouts Ineligible Volunteer Files, some of the papers had been released previously, but others were made public for the first time.
In one case from the files, a distraught mother walked into a Louisiana sheriff's office in 1965 and said a 31-year-old scoutmaster had raped one of her sons and molested two others.
Six days later, the scoutmaster sat down in front of a microphone in the same station and confessed. He admitted to raping a 17-year-old boy on a camping trip and sexually molesting two other boys. The victims corroborated his confession.
Seven days later, the decision was made not to pursue charges against him.
The man "was asked to leave the parish, and if he was caught around or near any boy or youth organisation, he would be sent to state prison immediately", a scouting executive wrote to national headquarters. "We are indeed sorry that scouting was involved."
The lawyers who unveiled the files said BSA had not done enough to root out paedophiles using the youth movement to prey on minors.
"What these files represent is ... the pain and the anguish of thousands of scouts," said lawyer Paul Mones, while presenting details of the files at a press conference in the northwestern US city of Portland.
Mr Mones said the files "demonstrate the depth and breadth of the BSA's vast knowledge about the threats to scouts by scoutmasters and adult leaders who used their authority ... to sexually molest generations of boys".
The lawyers highlighted a 2010 court case, in which an assistant scoutmaster in a Mormon Church-sponsored troop sexually molested a boy in the 1980s.
The abuser involved had previously confessed to molesting 17 other boys in the troop, but was allowed to return to scouting within a few months and then found a new victim.
Responding to the release, BSA national leader Wayne Perry reiterated an apology to the victims.
He said: "There have been instances where people misused their positions ... to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong.
"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 a statement on its website, BSA also said it has improved its procedures to ensure safety, including now requiring background checks and formal training of its leaders.
But Mr Mones said the organisation, founded as part of the international Scouting Movement in 1910, has not done enough.
The BSA has "made some improvements, but we think there's more still to be done," said the lawyer, noting that on average each abuser typically molested between five and 25 scouts.