The Boy Scouts of America Files for Bankruptcy Because Like Too Many Organizations BSA Leaders Chose to Cover-up, Rather Than Confront, Sexual Abuse.
Quick: What do the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the Catholic Church, the US Olympics gymnastics program, Penn State’s football program, Ohio State’s wrestling program, and the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, all have in common?
Answer: they have all been implicated in sexual abuse scandals. This week the BSA, one of the most revered institutions in the nation, is filing for bankruptcy due to sexual abuse allegations dating back almost to the organization’s founding over a century ago. One of the victims is 93 years old.
Punishing the offenders is challenging enough. Victims often are afraid to come forward. For many, they just want to put the incidents behind them. And, there’s a troubling cover-up culture that exists in so many institutions from public schools to public universities, government agencies, churches and non-profit organizations like the BSA.
Preventing abuse going forward is even more challenging. Can we do a better job of screening people who will be working around young children? Can we do a better job of educating children to recognize potential abusers and avoid them? Can the adults do a better job of holding each other accountable, recognizing troubling behavior among colleagues and doing something about it? Can we offer more treatment to those willing to recognize their own weaknesses and resolve to address them?
None of these answers are easy but we cannot ignore the problem or pretend it will solve itself. This is a failure of society and undermines trust in our core institutions. “Boy Scout” has been a universally admired term for over a century and becoming a scout has been a defining experience for millions of young boys and girls in America. Sadly, it now symbolizes something sinister and shameful.
We must do better.