New lawsuit claims abuse by Washington Boy Scout leaders

Three new lawsuits have been filed in King County accusing Boy Scout leaders of sexual abuse and the organization of allowing it to continue.

Dale Becker is one of the former Scouts suing the Boy Scouts of America. He tells KIRO 7 he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by former Scoutmaster James Sauget. "I was terrified of this guy and he was molesting me. Did it screw up my life?  Yeah," said Becker.

According to Becker and another plaintiff, the Boy Scouts "ignored warning signs and complaints about Sauget's abusive behavior."

From 1961 to 1990, the Boy Scouts of America kept a so-called "Ineligible Volunteer" file.  The file contains 52 Scout leaders from Washington State who have been accused of sexual abuse.

"They probably had the largest pedofile library in the world -- thousands of scoutmasters who perpetrated crimes against children," Seattle attorney Mike Pfau said. "At least half the cases we are involved in involved abuse that wasn't in the Boy Scout files.

"The real number will never be known because the Boy Scouts have destroyed older files."

The abuse of Boy Scouts spanned Washington State and involved leaders from numerous councils.

"It's an endemic problem in the state of Washington," said Pfau.

Tom Stewart said he and his brother were sexually abused by assistant Scoutmaster at Camp Kilworth in Federal Way.

"He was always armed. He always had a gun on him, and he said he would kill us and our parents if we ever told anybody," Stewart told KIRO 7 in 2012.

Parents and children say they were not warned about pedophiles in the Boy Scouts. Dale Becker's mother, Barbara, told KIRO 7, "You sent your kid to the Scouts thinking they were safe and getting a good education. These are your children and you weren't able to protect them when you should have been."

A 1972 confidential memo from a Boy Scout executive advises how to deal with volunteers unfit to work with boys. The executive advises that the memo should not be shared, "beyond the top management of your council."

Plaintiffs who filed the latest lawsuits are asking for damages in an amount to be proven at the time of trial.

"The Scouts still have not acknowledged truly how many abusive Scoutmasters or volunteers there were in Washington or anyplace in the country. I do think, though, that there is a day of reckoning that is coming for the Boy Scouts of America," Pfau said.

With mounting lawsuits and declining membership, there are reports the Boy Scouts of America is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. The head of the organization said they are exploring "all options" as the organization tries to stay afloat.

On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America sent the following statement through a public relations representative.

First and foremost, we care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, and we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice and we encourage them to come forward.  It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement.      
In the 1920s, the BSA created a system to bar individuals from Scouting that should not work with youth. That system continues to this day, and has been continually updated and enhanced over time. While no system is perfect, the Volunteer Screening Database (VSD) has been and remains a valuable tool in preventing known or suspected abusers from joining or reentering our organization. 
The BSA has taken significant steps over many years to ensure that we respond aggressively and effectively to reports of sexual abuse. We recognize, however, that there were instances in our organization's history when, in some instances, cases were not addressed or handled in a manner consistent with our commitment to protect Scouts, the values of our organization, and the procedures we have in place today.     
Today, the Volunteer Screening Database – a tool the Centers for Disease Control recommends for all youth-serving organizations – serves as one of the BSA's many strong barriers to abuse, which also include:
•    Ongoing mandatory youth protection education for all volunteers, parents, and Scouts;   
•    A  leader selection process that includes criminal background checks and other screening efforts;   
•    A leadership policy which requires that at least two youth protection trained adults will be present with youth at all times; and prohibits one-on-one situations where adults would have any interactions alone with children – either in person, online, or via text;   
•    Prompt mandatory reporting to law enforcement of any allegation or suspicion of abuse; and,   
•    A 24/7 Scouts First Helpline (1-844-SCOUTS1) and email contact address (scouts1st@scouting.org) to access counseling and help needed to report any suspected abuse or inappropriate behavior
We believe victims and remove individuals based on only allegations of inappropriate behavior. We steadfastly believe that one incident of abuse is one too many and we are continually improving all of our policies to prevent abuse. This is precisely why we fully support and advocate for the creation of a national registry overseen by a governmental entity, similar to the national sex offender registry, of those who are suspected of child abuse or inappropriate behavior with a child, and thus allowing all youth serving organizations to share and access such information.  We call upon Congress and other youth serving organizations to support this initiative.   
The BSA also regularly convenes leaders from other youth-serving organizations, as well as experts in the youth protection field. Sharing of information is one of the key focus areas of those discussions. Experts note that among the general US population, one in six men have experienced sexual abuse or assault at some point in their lives. This is an unacceptable public health and safety problem that must be addressed, and we seek to be part of the solution along with all other youth-serving organizations.

More news from KIRO 7


Comments on this article