Lance and Oren Myers of Seattle have kept a secret for two-and-a-half decades. But now they say they’re done protecting a pedophile and the organization that gave the abuser access to them: the Boy Scouts of America.
“Keeping your silence just allows the perpetrators to continue doing what they do to young children. So silence is golden for them. I’m here today to break the silence. It’s not a secret anymore,” said Oren Myers.
The men are 41-year-old twins, struggling with their past. This is the first time they’ve spoken publically about it. Their close friends and family members haven’t heard them explain what went on when they were teenagers. In fact neither twin even knew his brother suffered the same abuse until last year. The truth? They say for three years in the mid-80’s a respected Scoutmaster repeatedly molested and raped them in parks and at the man’s basement apartment in Seattle.
“I was just really afraid. I was just scared. I wanted it to stop but I didn’t know how to make it stop,” said Oren Myers. “(He told me) I could get in trouble for what I was doing and that he would lose all respect for me.”
"To me he was a trusted Scout leader and if he was telling me that no one would believe me. It made me feel exactly like that. Here's this trusted man telling me that no one's going to believe me and that’s what I did believe," said Lance Myers.
The brothers thought they were the only victims, but now know otherwise. Years after their ordeal, it’s coming to light that thousands of boys associated with Scouting have been sexually abused by scoutmasters, assistant scoutmasters and other volunteers going back decades. The abuse is detailed in what’s known as the Scout’s “perversion files”. Thousands of confidential files kept in locked cabinets at Scouting headquarters in Irving, Texas.
“All of this time I thought it was just me out there and it turns out it was a lot of other boys too that had the same thing happen to them and it’s just really hard to understand that this could happen. I wish it wasn’t only me, but it wasn’t, apparently,” said Lance Myers.
The Myers brothers have filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America. They allege the Scouts could have prevented the abuse by warning Scouts, parents and volunteers that pedophiles were attracted to Scouting. In legal documents they accuse the Scouts of not acting quickly enough to institute safety policies to keep children from abuse:
“Moreover, in failing to implement sufficient child abuse policies upon learning not later than the 1960’s that predatory child molesters were using Scouting as a means to access victims, the defendants acted with malice or a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and with a conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of individual Boy Scouts and the foreseeable victims of predatory Scout leaders, including Plaintiffs.”
Scouts say file system protected youth
The Boy Scouts of America say they kept the confidential files, also called the ineligible volunteer files, to protect children. They wanted to document suspected abusers, kick them out of the program, and make sure they never got back in.
In an open letter to the Scouting community, three top executives recently wrote about the positive intentions of keeping the files.
“The files document a good-faith effort by men and women associated with Scouting to identify and keep out unfit adult volunteers. Many of the files show men attempting to re-enter the Scouting program, often many years later, often in a geographically different location, and properly being denied re-entry because their name was in the iv (ineligible volunteer) files,” wrote the executives.
“I'd ask you who does that actually protect? It didn't protect me," said Lance Myers.
Files from Washington state
The KING 5 Investigators have obtained 50 of the secret files. They all stem from alleged abuse cases in Washington state. They detail cases such as a Scoutmaster from Spokane who was accused of molesting four boys in his troop in the 1970's. The Scouts created a file for the man and kicked him out of the program. The file does not make it clear if law enforcement authorities were alerted.
In another file, the Scouts detailed allegations that a Scout leader from Belfair molested a boy at a Scout camp in 1990. The child ended up suffering severe psychological problems following the camp and spent several weeks in a psychiatric ward. Law enforcement authorities were called about the allegations, but the file does not make clear who initiated that process.
Another file contains records of the Scouts removing Assistant Scoutmaster Ron Leppard from Vancouver, WA after he was convicted of raping a 15-year-old Boy Scout. After serving his sentence, the Scouts wrestled with whether or not to re-instate the man. The organization was getting pressure to do so from the former Scout leader and his supporters.
“What can I do so I can be in the Scouts? What do you have for me? I have (a) Religious Emblem of God and Country and (a) Scout training Award,” wrote Leppard.
Leppard’s supporters included a church pastor from Portland who appealed to Scouting authorities. “I’m sure that you are aware of how much the Scouts mean to Ron. If it is at all possible for him to get back into the program, I would ask you please, help him to do so,” wrote the pastor. “Ron has cooperated in every way with the legal system and has done so with a willing attitude and a spirit of good intensions because he really wants to be back in Scouts.”
The file shows Scouting authorities considered the reinstatement but decided against it in 1987.
“At the present time, I feel very strongly that we should not register Mr. Leppard. If, over a period of the next five or ten years, he showed progress and no reoccurrences of acts occurred, we certainly would review the situation if it was requested,” wrote Paul Ernst, Director of Registration Services of the Boy Scouts of America. “We have had problems in the past where people have committed this sort of offense and a reoccurrence does occur under the proper conditions,” wrote Ernst.
The Myers’ attorney, Mike Pfau of Seattle, says these detailed files prove the Scouts knew predators were drawn to the organization, yet officials waited until the late 1990’s to institute policies to better protect children.
“The question is what did they do proactively with this knowledge that their troops were being infiltrated by pedophiles? And the answer is too little, too late. Not enough,” said Pfau.
Top Boy Scout leaders say the files do not prove any sort of cover-up and that most of the records within them are public documents, which anyone could have read.
“The files broadly refute the notion that these were secret files of hidden abuse. The files show a significant amount of public knowledge of the offenders and their unlawful acts. For example, more than 60 percent of the files being made available to the public include some kind of public information. These data indicate that more often than not, the police, the courts, and the public were aware of inappropriate sexual behavior having been attributed to these individuals,” wrote the Scouts national president, national commissioner and Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock.
Court orders release of files
Despite rigorous legal efforts by the Boy Scouts to keep the files confidential, later this month 1,247 of them will be made public as the result of an Oregon Supreme Court ruling. The files were admitted into evidence in a 2010 abuse case in Oregon. Until the high court's decision, they were under a protective order. The KING 5 Investigators were able to obtain a sample of the files from Washington cases before the public release.