It's organizational abuse all over again. Like the Catholic church, it appears that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) systematically and intentionally protected molesters rather than protect the children. A story in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Oct. 30 reported that the Boy Scouts knew that one of their leaders had molested boys right here in Orange County, CA but did not report the crimes to the police.
Most horrifying to me is that one of the leaders of BSA actually said that it would be troubling to let the community know that they had a sex offender as a troop leader. What does BSA think about this decision now, when survivors are coming forward and making these mistakes public? The one heartening part of the story is that the Scouts are working on correcting this injustice today, by carefully screening potential leaders and creating guidelines for Scout safety.
I personally have counseled several men who were molested by BSA troop leaders. It is heartbreaking to listen to their stories. Like the story in the Times, as boys these individuals were somewhat lost. Their fathers were emotionally and physically unavailable and attention from a respected adult in a uniform was welcome. But then it turned out that the attention was simply a way to gain trust so that when the molestation occurred, the boy was more apt to follow along and less apt to tell anyone what had happened.
As adults, men molested as children often suffer emotionally and sexually, but hold onto their secret tightly. The shame of not standing up for one's self–even if as a boy they were too naive to realize that's what they needed to do–wears on them. Sometimes their bodies responded as if they were welcoming the sexual advances, making it confusing if they didn't know that bodies just do what they do automatically.
Men hold in their rage until it can be displaced onto someone safe, like a parent or a partner. Or they numb the rage with alcohol or drugs. They may avoid sex because it brings up bad memories. They become depressed and may feel like "damaged goods."
Not every man (or woman) who was molested will experience these problems, but many do. They need to know that it is safe to come forward, either to the institution that didn't protect them. Is there anything in the Times article that sends a signal that BSA asks that others who were molested as Scouts come forward? Male survivors also need to know that it is safe to seek help, either from a sex therapist with a background in treating trauma, or a trauma specialist who has training in treating sexual issues if that is part of their symptoms.
I am certain that this story stirred things up for survivors. My heart goes out to them. I hope that the outcome of institutional abuse like this will work in a positive way to make sure that our children are properly educated about how to protect themselves or report abuse, and to keep sex offenders from taking leadership positions.