Your silence is screaming, Part 2

Recent news reports teem with commentary on the actions of Boy Scouts of America to cover up years of child sexual abuse allegations. Referred to as the “Perversion Files,” reports of adults sexually abusing scouts spanned decades, from 1970-1991. About 500 of these cases came from disclosures by scouts, parents or staff members, rather than from police reports. About 80% of these instances were never reported to law enforcement by the organization. To make matters worse, the alleged perpetrators were commonly asked to resign quietly, or offered bogus reasons for leaving, in order to maintain the integrity of the organization.

News flash: there is no integrity in covering up the ongoing sexual harm of children. One report discusses the aftermath of this silence—a man who volunteered as a camp doctor maintained his practice as a pediatrician for over 35 years after being banned from the Scouts, with no official report made. The Boy Scout Oath reads,

“On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.”

Unfortunately, there was no helping other people, neither child victims nor alleged perpetrators, in covering up these reports. The choice to stay silent seems unethical and immoral from my perspective. One issue that the Boy Scouts of America has elected to speak out about though is the ban of Gay scout leaders. This ban is rooted in heterosexism and the belief that homosexuality is inherently disordered and wrong. One blogger drew the connection between the sadly persistent myth that homosexuality is synonymous with pedophilia (see the anti-gay PSA from the 1950's below). This is a rape myth that many hate groups advocate and use to promote limitations and bans on equal marriage, serving in the military, and having a gay-straight alliance in schools. I strongly suggest that this organization revisit the concept of a wake-up call in their approach to child sexual abuse prevention. A “mentally awake,” anti-sexual violence, youth-serving organization might recognize that intervening in cases of child sexual abuse by following up with a formal report makes sense, while perpetuating a heterosexist, homophobic culture  by promoting rape myths makes none.

This feminist has identified the need for some good old fashioned feminist analysis of what appears to be a patriarchal organizational structure. Think about the ways that organizational policy promotes the continued oppression of so many groups, individuals and personal identities. Check out some reading material on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention. For goodness sake, practice your bystander intervention skills (en Español). If nothing else, it is time to break the silence and talk about it.