Beginning in the 1910s, the Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”) began tracking pedophiles who operated in Scouting, creating what they named “the Perversion files”—internal secret files shared with no one that document the problem of sexual abuse in Scouting and the Boy Scouts’ response. Over the years the Boy Scouts destroyed thousands of its Perversion files, but many were preserved and new files are created every year. At least thirty-nine Minnesota Perversion files from 1960-1991 have been made public through child sexual abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts. This blog is Part 2 in a six-part series examining the Boy Scouts’ Minnesota Perversion files.
While BSA created its Perversion file system ostensibly to protect children in Scouting, they did not effectively publicize the system internally. The guidelines for creating a Perversion file and banning an adult volunteer were written down in BSA’s Procedures for Maintaining Standards of Leadership. However, these instructions were shared with only high level Scout officials and kept secret from the rank-and-file local BSA officials, workers, and volunteers, not to mention Scouts themselves and their parents. The following Perversion files demonstrate how the BSA’s culture of secrecy surrounding its institution-wide child sexual abuse epidemic and its secret effort to address it failed to solve the problem.
Lawrence Atkins — Faribault, Minnesota (1960)
In the 1960 Perversion file for Lawrence Atkins of Faribault, Minnesota, a local Scout official wrote BSA headquarters and commented that his staff “had a fuzzy idea of the operations of our Confidential File[.]” BSA headquarters wrote back to explain the Perversion file and probation system: “we sometimes register men on probation if their behavior is such that the local council wishes to recommend it. However, when we get a statement so positive as on Atkins, we refuse to ever register them at any time. You might explain this to your staff member.” The fact is that “statements so positive as on Atkins” did not automatically result in exclusion, as the next file demonstrates.
James William Froehlig — Minneapolis, Minnesota (1982)
On July 15, 1982, Scout officials in Minneapolis confronted Scoutmaster James William Froehlig with allegations that he had sexually fondled at least seven Scouts in Troop 179. Froehlig responded by stating: “I have to say that the allegations are true.” However, after the Minneapolis officials sent their information to BSA headquarters to create a Perversion file and ban Froehlig from ever participating in Scouting, BSA headquarters wrote back stating: “We certainly feel that you have justification for refusing registration in your council. If you have any other information which you feel could strengthen our files nationally, we would like to have this material.” For BSA headquarters to move forward with a nation-wide ban of Froehlig, they might need more than Froehlig’s admission that he sexually fondled at least seven Scouts. The file materials are silent as to why BSA headquarters changed course and established a Perversion file on Froehlig.
In the memorandum documenting the meeting with Froehlig, the Minneapolis Scout officials “urged the Troops to have a program on Child Abuse conducted for their Troops as soon as possible.” This memorandum was forwarded to BSA headquarters, where the only people who knew of the scope of the child abuse problem worked. There is nothing in the file showing BSA headquarters’ response to this plea for child abuse prevention training. Troops, Scouts, and parents were left in the dark and on their own to figure out how to respond to a child sexual abuse epidemic that they were unaware of because of BSA headquarters’ efforts to keep the problem a secret.
Robert James Sykes — Burnsville, Minnesota (1966)
In 1966, Assistant Scoutmaster Robert James Sykes confessed to molesting multiple Boy Scouts in a Burnsville, Minnesota Troop. A report from local Scout officials to National Boy Scout headquarters stated that Sykes also acknowledged “that this same type mess occurred in a previous troop[.]” Scout officials overseeing the previous troop failed to follow procedures and report Sykes to BSA headquarters to create a Perversion file. Had BSA’s training on the Perversion file system been comprehensive and transparent, it could have prevented Sykes from re-registering and creating another “mess” in the lives of those Boy Scouts.
If you have any information about any of the following Boy Scout leaders, we would like to speak with you on a confidential basis:
- Lawrence Atkins — Faribault
- James William Froehlig — Minneapolis Troop 179
- Robert James Sykes — Burnsville
About the Authors:
Steve Crew is an attorney with the Portland law firm of Crew Janci LLP. Steve was a member of the trial team that achieved a$18.5 million verdict against the Boy Scouts of America in a sexual abuse case. Steve has been a trial lawyer for over 35 years and he focuses his practice on helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse against predatory pedophiles and the institutions of trust that enable pedophiles to get access to children, including the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, the Mormon Church, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Peter Janci is also an attorney with the Portland law firm of Crew Janci LLP. Steve was a member of the trial team that achieved a$18.5 million verdict against the Boy Scouts of America in a sexual abuse case. Peter has represented more than one hundred victims of sexual abuse over nearly a decade where he aggressively opposed large and powerful institutions, including: the Catholic Church; the Mormon Church; the Boy Scouts of America; federal, state and local governments; and other public and private institutions of trust.