MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - They've been dubbed the “Boy Scout Perversion Files.” Over 20,000 formerly secret Boy Scout documents are now public. The files identify scout leaders and volunteers who were banned from the organization over a 20-year period for molesting children. And according to the records, at least 9 incidents occurred on the Suncoast.
An Oregon law firm specializing in sexual abuse cases released the list. The incidents in Sarasota and Bradenton occurred from 1965 through 1997, with 9 total incidents, involving 5 different people.
Shortly after releasing the list, the law firm's website crashed. However, ABC 7 was able to obtain documents from two of the incidents in Manatee County -- both involving the same man, Benjamin Resse Bartel, who was a chaplain at a Boy Scout summer camp in New York, but owned a home on Anna Maria Island.
“We warn our kids about strangers, but nine out of ten times, it's going to be someone they know and trust that they look up to, like a Boy Scout leader.” After hearing about the cases, Ken Followell, president of Male Survivor, an organization that supports men who've been the victim of sexual abuse, says he's not surprised by the details.
According to reports, a parent accused Bartel of fondling their child in 1981. Then in 1982 Bartel allegedly picked up an 18-year-old who was hitchhiking on Anna Maria, offering him money to pose nude for a photographer. In both cases, the victims were uncooperative with law enforcement.
“So many times in cases like this, we see the perpetrator blame the victim, so they keep quiet and they never talk about it, and they don't think it's very common. The sad thing is, one in six boys are sexually abused by the time they're 18,” says Followell.
Now that the list is public, Followell says it could likely stir up a lot of suppressed emotions for the victims, and as parents, the best thing you can do to protect your children from sexual abuse is to have an open, honest conversation before it ever occurs.
“The vast majority of the scout leaders and the people involved in scouting are honorable, loving people. They're doing it for all the right reasons, so people shouldn't jerk their kids out of Boy Scouts and go put them into another group, because kids need these organizations. But what we need to do is have these uncomfortable conversations with kids that this kind of thing can happen and if it happens you can always talk to me.”
Boy Scouts of America released a statement saying there have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and their response to some of those incidents was insufficient, inappropriate and wrong.
However, it goes on to say that Boy Scouts of America now takes extensive measures to protect children, including comprehensive training and mandates to report any and all suspected abuse.