[4/29/19] – Boy Scouts of America Sexual Abuse

A group of documents named the “perversion files” recently surfaced cataloguing over 70 years of sexual abuse of Boy Scouts by Scout Leaders and other representatives of Boy Scouts of America. This is not the first time these files have made news, but what is different this time is the length of time and number of accusers. More than 7,000 abusers sexually assaulted an estimated 12,000 members of Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts of America has offered millions of dollars in restitution to those who have come forward and pressed charges, but not many have. In fact, of the estimated 12,000, only around 200 have publicly came forward to share their story and seek justice against their abuser. The likelihood of several more cases being brought to justice and the Boy Scouts of America paying many more millions is high. Some believe the financial impact of these cases could mean bankruptcy, perhaps even complete dissolution of the organization.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Boy Scouts of America Sexual Abuse

Learning Objectives

LO1: Explain the social construction of the role of a victim in American society.

LO2: Apply multiple sociological theories to understand and explain the Boy Scout “perversion files”.

LO3: Discuss how social factors determine the possibility of one experiencing and/or reporting an assault.


Lawyer calls Boy Scouts’ response to sexual abuse scandal ‘grossly deficient’

“For decades, the Boy Scouts of America maintained a confidential blacklist of staff and volunteers accused of sexual abuse. The magnitude of that list, known internally as the perversion files, is only now being realized. John Yang talks to Jeff Anderson, an attorney who represents abuse survivors, about the “grossly deficient” response from the Boy Scouts and why the files should be made public.”

US Boy Scouts scandal: Over 12,000 children sexually abused | Al Jazeera English

“A child sexual abuse scandal threatens to engulf Boy Scouts of America, an institution once considered one of the United States’ most wholesome and patriotic. More than 12,000 children were sexually abused while taking part in Boy Scouts activities, it has emerged. The organization kept quiet about the alleged pedophiles after kicking them out, keeping their files secret instead of revealing their identities. Now, lawyer Jeff Anderson plans to file multiple lawsuits on behalf of the victims, said the organization. Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports.”

N.J. and N.Y. Boy Scout leaders accused of sexual abuse

“Attorney Jeff Anderson said at a press conference in New York on Tuesday that he’s identified 130 perpetrators of child sex abuse in the Boy Scouts of America in New York. Anderson and Greg Gianforcaro’s law firm also announced they identified 50 Boy Scout leaders in New Jersey who have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors.”



  1. Using a Conflict approach, why might the Boy Scouts of America sought to keep the “perversion files” a secret for so long? How might the decision to conceal these records been driven by profit-seeking motives? What group stands to suffer the greatest consequence in the aftermath of the coming court cases? What group stands to benefit the most from these cases being brought to justice? Explain.
  2. What is the role of the family in preventing sexual abuse in their children? Are the parents who allowed their children to participate in the Boy Scouts of America responsible for the outcomes experienced by their children? Unless they were directly involved, is it reasonable to sanction the parents – formally or informally – for the abuse of their children by representatives of Boy Scouts of America?
  3. What social factors contribute to the social construction of sexual abuse cases in the United States? How does one’s gender influence their potential for experiencing sexual abuse either as a victim or a perpetrator? In the case of the Boy Scouts of America, how is the social construction of masculinity influenced by this trend?
  4. Using a Symbolic-Interaction approach, what does the label of “victim” mean in American society? Why might some advocate against the use of this label to describe sexual abuse survivors? Why might this label dissuade a survivor of sexual assault from reporting their assault?
  5. Using a Structural-Functional approach, how do institutions like the Boy Scouts of America become places where deviance like sexual abuse can occur? What is the role of bureaucracy and hierarchy in creating organizational structures and situations where vast amounts of evidence like this can be hidden away for so many years?

Current Events Quiz

A symbolic-interactionist may focus their research on sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America on…

  1. …how experiencing sexual assault by an authority figure influences one’s ability to trust others.
  2. …who survivors of sexual assault feel comfortable reporting their experience to.
  3. …living with the guilt of committing an act of sexual violence
  4. All of the above

A sociologist using a _______ approach would likely be most interested in researching how people who participated in the sexual abuse of Boy Scouts identified and wighed pros and cons associated with making the decision to engage in this behavior.

  1. Functionalist
  2. Symbolic-Interactionist
  3. Conflict
  4. Rational-Choice

A _______ theorist would likely argue that people in powerful positions within the Boy Scouts of America used their status to conceal the “perversion files” and prevented prosecutions.

  1. Functionalist
  2. Symbolic-Interactionist
  3. Conflict
  4. Rational-Choice


Photo by dlinca.

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