Explorer Scout Sexual Abuse Isn’t a New Problem and It’s Not Going Away

Police ExplorerBecause of the number of Explorer Scout sex abuse cases our firm handles, Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson recently interviewed me for background material on the problem of the sexual abuse of youth Explorer Scouts by police officers supposedly serving as their trusted mentors. The interview was extensive and Wolfson wrote an excellent and thorough piece on the subject.

According to the leaders of Learning for Life, the Boys Scouts of America affiliate that runs the Explorer program, the program is designed to “teach important life and career skills to young people from all backgrounds through immersive career experiences and mentorship provided by community and business leaders . . . Together, we equip young people with character, leadership and life skills that can be used both today and in their future careers.”  However, in too many instances, that is not what is happening.  Wolfson reports “that over the past 40 years, at least 137 girls and 26 boys have been allegedly raped, seduced, fondled, kissed, dated or otherwise exploited in 28 states by at least 129 law enforcement officers, firefighters and other advisers.”

This is a nationwide problem that has not been addressed by Learning for Life, the Boy Scouts of America, or the law enforcement units sponsoring these posts.  The Courier-Journal’s review found that allegations have been dismissed by some police departments and that Learning for Life waited for years to adopt some safeguards and haven’t enforced others, leaving police departments to police themselves.

Representatives of the Boy Scouts of America and its Learning for Life affiliate declined to be interviewed for the Courier-Journal piece.

There are many facets to this problem. Wolfson points out one that could be fixed easily. The Learning for Life programs allow Explorer Scouts to go on police patrols with only one adult present, which is a clear break from a major BSA rule – the “no one-on-one rule” that prohibits adult Scout leaders from being alone at any time with a minor.

Priests, coaches, teachers, and other youth leaders who sexually abuse children abuse their positions of trust. Law enforcement officers are in similar position of authority and trust, and when put in charge of young Explorers who want careers in law enforcement themselves and who may idolize their Explorer mentors, there are opportunities to take advantage of the youth members.

It’s time the Boy Scouts and the leaders of Learning for Life get together and implement policies and procedures, including better training of youth members to protect themselves and understand boundaries, to stop this epidemic of abuse. These groups have a responsibility to the communities they serve and the young people trusting them for career training.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, California, and other states.

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