As far as the crimes themselves go, there’s virtually no difference between sexual abuse committed against children by members of one institution versus similar acts committed by leaders of another. Officials who have been privy to such behavior are equally guilty.
There is, however, a significant moral difference among such officials when it comes to a willingness to offer prompt outreach to victims who have come forward or have otherwise been identified.
The Catholic Church, for instance, has offered counseling services to victims. The Boy Scouts of America, however, has not been forthcoming in offering counseling services to victims.
The matter comes up now because someone recently asked me whether I’m aware of BSA ever making such outreach efforts.
BSA officials have never offered counseling to my clients, and I have never heard of it being offered to any other scout victims. They always make victims sue.
In my opinion, this is the most despicable aspect of BSA’s behavior: refusing to reach out to those boys it knew had been raped by adult leaders in its program, most ironic for an organization supposedly built on service and helping others.
The saddest thing about it is that child-sexual-abuse therapists, psychologists and researchers say that early intervention with the sexually abused child almost always greatly ameliorates the effects. They say that prompt intervention is closely associated with positive (or at least less negative) long-term outcomes for the child in adulthood. That is, in part, aside from public safety, the reason why mandatory child-abuse reporting laws — and, especially, their vigorous enforcement — are so critical.
BSA officials are, of course, only too aware of the ameliorative possibilities of prompt professional therapy. For years health-care professionals have been emphasizing such benefits. Clearly BSA officials don’t care. Why else would they persistently refuse to insist upon giving victims the treatment that health professionals say is so valuable and vital?
The answer would seem to get down to the core priorities of an organization that has leaders far more interested in minimizing damage to the institution than in helping victims have the chance to begin the healing process. Such a priority amounts to a double moral failure, behavior that also ironically contradicts the doctrine BSA leaders have been touting to young people for the past century, to wit:
“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
“Scout law” emphasizes telling the truth, helping others, being gentle, never harming others and obeying the law.
Few would dispute that such a code of conduct represents an exemplary lesson in morality. Untold numbers of youths have found such doctrine ennobling and enriching, and many who have benefited from the Boy Scout experience have gone on to perpetuate the activity as scout leaders.
Many others have been sexual predators and/or enablers. Would that the lessons of the salutary scout code extended beyond “young people” and applied to the elders who have been participants in and witnesses to the sexual abuse of generations of children.
By TIM KOSNOFF
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