Skip to comments.Scouts' anti-abuse effort merits praise
Posted on 02/25/2003 3:02:29 PM PST by Dubya
"Let me show you something," a co-worker said to me the other day. She is the mother of a 7-year-old who is a newly enrolled Cub Scout.
She handed me her son's Wolf Cub Scout Book and told me to look at the first two dozen pages. What I saw astounded me.
I remember being a Cub Scout almost 40 years ago. I learned how to wear and care for my blue-and-gold uniform. I learned the Cub Scout salute, the Cub Scout handshake and the Cub Scout motto: "Do your best."
All of that was in the book. But that's not what my co-worker wanted me to see. The first two dozen pages were all about child abuse, especially sexual abuse.
The sections had subtitles that were very foreign to my own Cub Scout experience:
Sexual Molestation by Peers
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Preventing Sexual Abuse
Talking with Your Child About Sexual Abuse
What If ...
At first, I was shocked to see so many pages about such a horrible subject in the pure and innocent world of a Cub Scout. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood that this is a dramatic and praiseworthy attempt by the Boy Scouts of America, which is based in Irving, to change the way society deals with this vile problem.
My co-worker was distraught about it, but she, too, understood the significance.
"It's really horrible," she said. "Last night, I read my son these pages. He doesn't even understand. I want him to learn all the good things that Cub Scouts do. But I'm also scared. It just reminds me how scary the world is. Wherever you go -- church, the park, anywhere. It's a reminder of how I can't be away from him."
In Sunday's Star-Telegram, you might have seen the report by staff writer Ben Tinsley about the former Haltom City police officer arrested Saturday on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. The former officer, John Ross Ewing of Bedford, was already accused of molesting a 16-year-old boy.
What is especially upsetting is that both boys came to the Haltom City Police Department as part of the city's Police Explorer program. This subsidiary program of the Boy Scouts of America allows high school students to observe and learn about professions.
In the Wolf Cub Scout Book, one page says:
"What if you are in a public restroom and someone tries to touch you in ways or places that make you feel uncomfortable? What would you do?"
Here are the answers, according to the book:
"Yell 'STOP THAT' as loudly as you can.
"Run out of the room as quickly as possible.
"Tell your parent, a police officer, security guard, or other adult (such as your teacher) what happened."
The Haltom City cases are all the more disturbing because the suspect was a police officer. We teach our children to run to police officers for aid and comfort, not from them.
These cases strongly show why the Cub Scout training program, in effect for more than a decade, is so necessary.
Often, members of the Police Explorer program have never risen through the ranks of the Cub Scouts or the Boy Scouts, spokeswoman Renee Fairrer of Boy Scouts of America told me Monday.
"Certainly, a young person could have no relationship with the Boy Scouts of America and still be active in the Explorers program," she said.
Possibly, no make that probably, the Cub Scout program could prepare Explorers to recognize abuse, wherever it arises. The handbook teaches the young Scouts the following: You recognize it, you resist it, then you report it.
Reaction to this emphasis on child abuse has been extremely positive, Fairrer said.
"We are known nationwide for having one of the best youth protection programs in the country," she said. "We make the program available to anyone who deals with children such as schools, church groups, anyone."
When the program began around 1989, Boy Scout officials said it would correct problems that made the Scouts attractive to molesters and vulnerable to lawsuits.
Dan Clifton of Colleyville, the Scout executive for the Longhorn Council, which administers Scouting programs in 23 North Texas counties, told me: "Not only do you educate the children, but you educate the parents."
I commend the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts for making such a dramatic change in its emphasis in recent years.
There's so much more to being a Scout in the real world today than learning to tie knots, earning merit badges and obeying the law of the pack.
Dave Lieber's Column Appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
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