Scout’s Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America 2023 Movie Review
The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America paints a horrifying image of the problems of child sexual abuse in Scouting camps. The investigative documentary follows the stories uncovered by veteran journalist and author Patrick Boyle, who wrote the book ‘Scout’s Honor.’
Exclusive interviews are conducted with survivors and former employees of the Boy Scouts of America who recount their stay and show the prevailing anger at the injustices they had suffered in the camp. Whistleblower Michael Johnson highlights the problems in its rigid system and goes into the crux of the problem with Patrick Boyle.
2020 was a dark year in the history of America. In what was earlier estimated to be 10-20 thousand cases of rape, torture, and abuse, over 92,000 sexual abuse claims were filed with the bankruptcy court against the Boy Scouts of America. Some of the cases dated back to 1965, eventually leading to the disclosure of the highly classified Perversion Files.
Scout’s Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America raises multiple questions about the organization that promises parents to make their children the crème de la crème of society. Most importantly, it answers the question of ‘why’ and ‘how’ the perpetrators committed such crimes and got away with it.
The documentary begins with the introduction of Mike Johnson. The former Youth Protection Director recollected how the BSA tuned him to say positive things about the golden brand and “market an image of safety.” Deep down he knew that the organization withheld information from him, especially when he discovered that Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr., former chairman of the Scout’s Youth Protection League, was caught in a child porn racket in 2013.
The narrative is then taken over by child abuse survivors, now fully grown adults, who carried the past trauma throughout their lives. They felt robbed of their youth and, in the case of Tom Krumins, the memories negatively impacted his marriage. Each survivor told their story and gave descriptions of the incidents that mentally scarred them for life: Krumins was threatened at knifepoint, Hayward got death threats for him as well as his family, and Christopher dealt with fits and hallucinations due to the years-long abuse.
Why didn’t the children seek help immediately? This question was answered by Michael Johnson. Each Scout was trained to Recognize, Resist, and Report the matters to a trusted adult. However, the Scout Leader who committed the crime was once a formerly trusted adult. Most perpetrators used grooming and displays of domination to get control over the child, in addition to the control they had as camp leaders.
Protecting the reputation of the Boys Scouts was one of the key reasons for its downfall. Over 1900 cases of child abuse, molestation, rape, and torture were uncovered from the Red Flag Files/Perversion Files, which were initially stashed away in the National Headquarters. Perpetrators took advantage of the hollow legal system, returning to the camps even after being banned for misconduct against their troops.
Scout’s Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America is an eye-opener. What was right under the nose of the Boy Scouts of America was swept under the rug for decades until the whole issue tragically corroded their armor of respectability. The 89-minute true crime documentary explores multiple topics, ranging from the method and effects of abuse at an early age to the BSA’s failure to cope with the problems.
The stories shift focus from one person to another, allowing viewers to assimilate the information after which Mike Johnson explodes the truth bombs about the Boy Scouts organization. His revelations become the highlight of the documentary. There is also a constant back-and-forth between him and General Counsel Steve McGowan, with Mike even pointing out that Steve did not approve of many of his ideas for the Youth Protection program.
Not only does the factual film describe how easy it was for predators to get into the Boy Scouts due to the heavy demand for volunteers and get away with crimes but also the notions surrounding child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church refused to believe that respected Catholic members, and leaders of Boy Scouts, perpetrated crimes against children despite the ban on homosexuality. The cycle of ignorance and denial didn’t end there. Child abuse victims feared of being misunderstood by their parents and even got ostracized by the society.
What was believed to be a ‘small problem’ in the Boy Scouts of America led to a large-scale debate on the need for better methods of youth protection and the rightful behavior of society. The documentary is a must-watch for any American or non-American citizen; how an organization that prided itself on shaping the future of younger generations actually led to the destruction of their lives.
Various stories and opinions are taken into consideration in Scout’s Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America to give viewers a final picture of the Boy Scouts of America. The answer to whether they can still trust the organization that predates the World Wars and the volunteers who swear an oath to protect the children is left to their judgment.