With the Vatican in the grips of a pedophilia scandal, the spotlight in America is being turned on U.S. scouting, which is accused of keeping quiet about decades of alleged sexual aggression by its leaders against young boys.
The Boy Scouts of America are being sued by a man who said he was abused five times when he was between 11 and 12 years old by his then-scoutmaster in Portland, Oregon.
The identity of the alleged victim, now 37, is being concealed for fear of reprisals related to the 29-million-dollar sex abuse lawsuit he brought against the Boy Scouts of America and its local Portland branch, the Cascade Pacific Council.
The plaintiff decried what he described as the group's silence on sexual abuses targeting children and teenagers at the hands of trusted scout leaders.
The alleged abuser, Timur Dykes, now 53, admitted after the incidents that he was a serial molester. He has been convicted three times for sex abuse against boys.
Scouts have convicted before US courts time and again, but this trial has gained more notoriety as fresh accusations of sex abuse hit the Catholic Church, said Patrick Boyle, editor of the website youthtoday.com.
"Institutional child sex abuse is really on everyone's mind right now," said Boyle, author of the book "Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution."
He said the court case "offers people another example of how institutions and organizations have so much sex abuse and have been hiding sex abuse for so long."
The trial is unique in that it has forced the Boy Scouts, which celebrates its centennial this year, to submit to the court for the first time in 20 years documents detailing sexual abuse recorded by the organization.
Although the group has been sued dozens of times over sex abuse, most cases settled out of court, which ensured the records were kept confidential.
"The files were created almost a century ago. So it shows what the scout officials knew, how many kids were abused ... where the abuse occurs," Boyle told AFP.
He said the Boy Scouts were aware of "thousands" of children abused over several decades.
Treading cautiously, the Texas-based scouts issued a terse statement saying: "Unfortunately, child abuse is a societal problem and there is no fail-safe method for screening out abusers."
But by Friday, the statement was no longer on the organization's website, www.scouting.org.
According to Boyle, scouts say they do not chose local leaders, a responsibility that falls instead to local officials, like the Cascade Pacific Council and the Mormon Church in the Oregon case.
But the scouts "do tell the troop's sponsors what kind of person you're allowed to take, what you have to do to check somebody out, and also to act when they do something like abusing kids," Boyle said.
The Oregon victim's lawyer, Kelly Clark, declined to comment on the trial, which got underway last month.
On his website, www.boyscoutabuse.com, Clark writes that victims may feel "an added sense of guilt about bringing legal action against an organization that many view in a positive light, one that no doubt has helped many boys, and, indeed, an organization that stresses 'loyalty' as one of its core values."
Boyle lamented that the Boy Scouts would not admit to their sex abuse problems.
"I wish the Boy Scouts would take all the files, give them to a researcher so that we know how often it's happened, how it happened so they can try to shape their program better to stop it," he said.
© AFP 2013