Scout's Honor author Patrick Boyle says exposing abuses can help victims of abuse

Boyle's 1994 book opened door for more research


The first published reports on the Boy Scouts of America’s confidential “ineligible volunteers” files were written nearly two decades ago by Patrick Boyle.

His 1994 book, “Scout’s Honor: Sexual Abuse in America’s Most Trusted Institution,” used the files as a springboard for more research, including extensive interviews with convicted pedophiles, their Scout victims, Scout leadership, experts in the fields of justice and medicine, and others touched by the crimes. The book grew out of a 1991 series he’d developed as a reporter for the Washington Times.

Boyle gained more expertise on youth-service organizations as editor of Youth Today, a trade publication. He’s now communications director for the child advocacy group Forum for Youth Investment in Washington, D.C.

Following are excerpts from a Sept. 25 interview with Boyle, 53.

Q: Why are the records contained in the Boy Scout confidential files important?

A: They give us a window into how the Boy Scouts operated and how they dealt with really the biggest skeleton in their closet, which is child molesters infiltrating the units. It also gives us a window into how child molesters operate. And one of these (things) we find, quite frankly, is that the organization very frequently acted in concert with the child molester, although certainly not on purpose. They both had an incredible interest in keeping this secret.

Q: How easy was it for pedophiles to get into the Boy Scouts?

A: This is an organization that depends on grown-ups who are willing to spend an awful lot of time with kids who are not their own kids. So it was very easy for child molesters to get access to a large number of boys that they were not related to and develop relationships with these kids. That’s why Scouting was such a perfect place for certain types of child molesters.

There were efforts beginning in the 1970s and ’80s to do a better job of screening them out or at least watching for certain behaviors and dealing with the problem early on. But, by and large, the Scoutmasters on the local level didn’t have much, frankly, sophistication or education about how molesters operate or how to keep them out. You didn’t quite have an open door, but you had an unlocked door.

Q: How effective were the Boy Scouts at reporting pedophiles to police?

A: For a long time, the Boy Scouts did pretty much what everyone else did. When they found a molester, they said: “Go away.” It was like throwing garbage out the window and pretending it’s not there anymore. There are cases around the country where Scout officials reported abuses to police. But throughout the confidential files, you really see a culture of silence. A culture of wishing it wasn’t reported to police. And sometimes, in fact, convincing parents not to go to police. And when they do go to police, convincing police not to press charges and prosecutors not to press charges. They wanted as little publicity as possible. That played into the fears of parents, because parents didn’t want their kids to be ostracized, either. So they all kind of worked together (in) a conspiracy of silence, not realizing that what they really were doing was enabling child molesters.

Q: There has been renewed interest in these files and in the whole issue (about Boy Scouts and pedophiles). What is the impact?

A: I think all this new attention is going to do an incredible amount of good, mostly for kids. The American public seems more willing than ever to really look at this problem of institutional sex abuse and to demand that organizations do something about it.

For decades, this problem has really been kept in the dark -- and you can understand why. Organizations are not going to broadcast that they have child molesters in their ranks. But light solves a lot of problems. The more light you shine on this, the more victims are going to feel empowered to report. We’ve seen a lot of people coming out to talk about being abused -- by priests, by coaches, by Scout leaders, by teachers -- and part of that is because they realize they’re not alone.

(Contact Thomas Hargrove at

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