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As victims of abuse in the Boy Scouts emerge, local troops say that didn't happen in SE Wisconsin

Posted at 6:51 PM, Aug 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-09 19:51:43-04

After news of hundreds of Boy Scout abuse survivors coming forward, local organizations say they are not aware of any victims in Southeast Wisconsin.

Three Harbors Council oversees troops from Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. Currently, they have 15,136 members with 2,835 volunteer leaders.

"We are not aware of anything that impacts scouting locally," Andrew Hardin, Scout Executive/CEO for Three Harbors Council said. "It outrages me and outrages our council in the Boy Scouts of America, somebody would use our program to abuse an innocent child. One case of abuse is too many."

This week, some 800 survivors came forward to say they were abused while in the Boy Scouts, including one alleged case from Wauwatosa. Attorneys for the survivors said they range in ages from 14 to 88, claiming decades of abuse were being covered up by the Boy Scouts of America.

"We think the abuse that happened in Boy Scouts dwarfs anything the Catholics or Baptist churches have seen," Andrew Van Arsdale, Attorney for Abused in Scouting said. "We have a list the Boy Scouts published back in 2011 by court order. They call it perversion files that has 8,000 individuals the Boy Scouts admit were in their ranks and abused kids."

This list is just the start according to Van Arsdale.

"They admitted under oath, they destroyed thousands of these files that never saw the light of day," Van Arsdale said. "We estimate they probably had 50,000 to 60,000 of these files naming child molesters of which they deleted 40,000 plus and left the 8,000 to sort through. The 8,000 are the ones who survived the burn essentially."

Hardin says he believes all of the victims but doesn't think the abuse happened in the Three Harbors Council area. He says in the 1980s, they implemented a number of different protocols to avoid issues of abuse. The protocols are constantly evolving but include criminal background checks for all leaders that apply and eliminating one-on-one contact with kids, among other safeguards.

When asked if he feels confident about the safety of the scouts who have gone through Three Harbors Council since the protocols were implemented, Hardin said, "I do."

However, the perversion list released by the Boy Scouts of America included nine people from the Three Harbors' coverage area. The people were placed on the list between 1990 and 2004. Three Harbors disputes the reasoning for the list saying there are "multiple reasons they can end up on a database and sexual abuse is one of them."

When questioned on the people listed after the new security protocols went into place, Hardin responded with the following statement:

"We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs and put Scouting and youth at risk. We are confident in the safety of Scouts in the Three Harbors Council. The youth protection policies in place today serve as barriers to abuse, and we mandate that all suspected instances of abuse are reported immediately to law enforcement. The Volunteer Screening Database is maintained by the Boy Scouts of America’s national organization and is designed to keep those who should not be working with children out of Scouting. We care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward."

Van Arsdale said he expects many more to come forward as news of survivors having the courage to speak up continues.

"I feel the dam is starting to crack," Van Arsdale said. "We're going to see a huge flood of these reports coming out over the next three to six months."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse while a boy scout, call 1-888-99-SCOUT or visit Abused in Scouting for more information."