Southland Scouting community reacts to Boy Scouts 'perversion files'

Scouts participate in a flag retirement ceremony. People involved with the Boy Scouting movement face the court-ordered release of the organization's
Scouts participate in a flag retirement ceremony. People involved with the Boy Scouting movement face the court-ordered release of the organization's "perversion files" with mixed emotions.
Philip Hall / Enterprise-Journal/AP

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Under a court order, the Boy Scouts of America Thursday released its so-called “Perversion Files” - thousands of pages of documents about sexual abuse allegations involving adult volunteers and scouts.

Many instances happened here in the Southland, so we wanted to gauge reaction from people who are or have been involved with the Scouts.

During the 1980s, Adam Rakunas of Santa Monica was a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, and an Eagle Scout in Orange County.

When he heard the about the release of the decades-old “Perversion Files,” he immediately went online to check whether he knew anyone named in the documents.

“I couldn’t find anything, so I guess that was a relief to know any troops I was in hadn’t done any sexual assaults on Scouts,” he said.

Rakunas said he was never abused, and he never heard about any abuse. But he wanted to make absolutely sure that nothing had happened in the troops he’d belonged to.

Boy Scout troops and regional offices (called councils) maintained the so-called “perversion files” for more than 80 years. They tracked adult volunteers suspected of molesting and abusing scouts, and sometimes they listed troop leaders and others believed to be gay.

Some people on the list were reported to law enforcement, prosecuted and convicted. Others never were. Evidence exists that the Boy Scouts of America and its supporters may have protected people on the list for decades and allowed them to continue working with boys.

Of more than 1200 case files released under a court order in Portland, Oregon, 134 originated with Boy Scout troops in California between 1965 and 1985.

Rakunas harbors mixed feelings about the files’ release.

“On the one hand, I’m glad the Boy Scouts were keeping track of the whole thing but I’m upset they didn’t go to the police or anything like that,” Rakunas said. “It seemed like it was more about protecting the institution rather than the kids who were in the Boy Scouts.”

Rakunas has a daughter now. If he had a son, he said he’s not sure he would want him to be a Scout.

Karen Bro of Laguna Niguel’s 15-year-old son is a Scout. She said the way the organization handled the abuse allegations was “horrible,” but she trusts the current leadership to keep her son safe.

“I’m not concerned at all about my son being involved in scouting,” Bro said. “I know the training the adults have to go through to be involved in the troop – and if they don’t go through that training they’re not involved in the troop, period.”

Michael Chusid, who lives in Encino, was a Boy Scout and a Scout leader.

His sons were active, too; one of them works for the organization now.

He said attorneys and the news media are making way too much of the documents and their release.

“Of course they’ve kept files! Every organization does,” Chusid said. “It would be more shocking if they destroyed files.”

Chusid sees no good coming from files’ release.

“If reports are coming out that are 25-27 years old, how do we discuss that without impugning the reputation of an ongoing organization?” Chusid asked.

Neal Flesner of Los Angeles also worries about casting unfair aspersions on The Boy Scouts, an organization he treasures.

He and his brothers were Eagle Scouts in their hometown, St. Louis.

“For me, the Boy Scouts of America, the organization that I was involved in, the leaders, the parents…Everyone that was involved in my organization was tremendous, Flesner said. “It was one of the best life learning opportunities I was ever given.”

Flesner hopes that the same opportunities will be available for his sons.