Five women say they were sexually abused as children by a Montana Boy Scout leader, while they participated in a coed program. Now they're suing the Boy Scouts — they say the organization knew abuse was a problem and failed to warn anyone.
According to the Great Falls Tribune, Boy Scout leader William H. Leininger Jr. abused the women in 1974, when they ranged in age from 11 to 15 and were part of the coed Explorer Scout program. The circumstances of the crimes are truly disturbing: the women say Leininger would separate them from the group by offering help with a merit badge, then rape them. One victim says he committed "sick, sick sexual acts." Leininger, who died in 2002, was convicted of abusing three of the women, and sentenced to ten years in prison — he later served another sentence for two unrelated rapes.
Now the women are suing the Boy Scouts of America and its Montana Council, alleging that the organizations are responsible for Leininger's behavior since he represented them. They say at least one member of the council's board knew about the abuse, and that the Boy Scouts knew that abuse was occurring within its ranks nationwide, but did nothing to warn families. This isn't the first time the Scouts have faced such accusations. Last year, a jury awarded $18.5 million to a man who was allegedly abused by his Scoutmaster Timur Dykes. The Boy Scouts allegedly knew of the abuse but did nothing, allowing Dykes to abuse other children — what's more, the organization apparently kept secret "perversion files" on its leaders, some of whom were allowed to stay in their positions despite evidence against them. And just this week, two more men sued the Boy Scouts, alleging that the leader of their Washington troop molested them in the 1970s.
Allegations of abuse within the Scouts haven't risen to Catholic Church levels of infamy yet, but a pattern does appear to be emerging. And like any organization where adults work with children, the Boy Scouts need to put policies in place to keep those children safe. Says attorney Kelly Clark, who represents the women in the Montana case and was also involved in the landmark case last year, "the goals of these lawsuits are to prevent child abuse — to make these, what we call institutions of trust ... safer places for children." Hopefully the Boy Scouts can learn from their mistakes and become worthy of that trust again.
Five Women Sue Boy Scouts, Say Montana Council Shares Blame [Great Falls Tribune]
Pair Accuse Lakewood Ex-Scout Leader, Librarian Of Sexual Abuse [The News Tribune]