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Child sex abuse survivor on release of Boy Scouts' files: This 'empowers us'

Courtesy of John Mark Buckland

John Mark Buckland, 42, of Huntington, W. Va., said he was sexually abused by a Boy Scout leader at Travis Air Force Base when he was 12 years old in 1982. The Boy Scouts' secret file documenting that abuse will be made public under a court order on Thursday, along with more than 14,500 pages of previously confidential documents detailing accusations of child sex abuse within the organization.

Updated at 2:35 pm ET to reflect release of the report:
John Buckland was 12 years old when an assistant Scoutmaster sexually abused him on an Air Force base in California. He has been waiting years for the day when a secret Boy Scouts file documenting that abuse three decades ago would be made public.

That day came Thursday, when more than 14,500 pages of previously confidential documents created by the Boy Scouts of America detailing accusations of child sex abuse within the organization were released under an Oregon Supreme Court order.


“It unveils all the secrecy, or at least a good portion of it, and the secrecy is the biggest demon there is when it comes to things like this, because it’s by being hidden that it basically just eats people away like a cancer,” Buckland, 42, of Huntington, W. Va., told NBC News.

“I think the release of the files will be instrumental as far as victims are concerned in being able to see that the dialogue is out there, and what I’m hoping to see is that there will be some really good self discovery of other people who haven’t come forward, people who will get a chance to see the files and actually being able to start processing it and getting their experience out in the open. But as long as the files were hidden that would never happen," he added.

The court ordered the Boy Scouts to release the “ineligible volunteer” files from 1965 to 1985 that chronicle suspected or confirmed instances of child sex abuse. Media organizations had sued for the release of the files, part of a 2010 case in which a jury decided that the Scouts were negligent in allowing a former assistant Scoutmaster to associate with the organization's youth after he admitted molesting 17 boys in 1983.

Lawyers for victims of the abuse say that the files, which they have dubbed the “perversion files,” represent reports of Scouts allegedly abused by more than 1,200 different Scoutmasters and other adult volunteers. The files, which includes Buckland’s abuser, were released Thursday on www.kellyclarkattorney.com.

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A report by the Boy Scouts in September said that 829 of the files from Jan. 1, 1965, to June 30, 1984, involved suspicions or confirmations of inappropriate sexual behavior with 1,622 youth. The report was done for the organization by Dr. Janet Warren, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia.

At the time, the Boy Scouts said in a letter that they would review their files created from 1965 to the present “and ensure that all good-faith suspicion of abuse has been reported to law enforcement.” They also said that there “have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.”

Boy Scouts admit response to sex abuse was 'insufficient' 

On Thursday morning, the organization also noted: “Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.”

“While it is difficult to understand or explain individuals’ actions from many decades ago, today Scouting is a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse,” the statement added.

In an interview with NBC DFW, National President Wayne Perry said: "I would ask parents to look at the programs we have and then judge us versus, maybe not the past, but judge where we are today and certainly judge us against any other youth service organization in the world and they will see that your kids are very, very safe."

Buckland said his life spiraled downward after Air Force officials came to his parents’ house on Travis Air Force Base in Vacaville, Calif., with photos depicting his abuse by a Scout leader. He dropped out of high school, got into drugs, attempted suicide twice, had many failed romantic relationships and eventually ended up in prison for two robberies that he confessed to doing.

His abuser was court-martialed and sentenced to hard labor, Buckland said, but it took him decades to figure out the source of what was troubling him since he, like the Boy Scouts, had buried the abuse. He said his life turned around when he got his dream job as a firefighter and then landed a two-year post in Iraq in 2009, where, while online, he came across stories similar to his own.

“That was the first time that I understood the dynamics of what was going on inside of me that flawed my decision-making, that flawed my emotions, that flawed everything and really propelled me in that direction,” he said. “The light bulb goes off and that’s decades later.”

For Buckland, the Boy Scouts’ apologies are insincere and forced. He said they never contacted him since he was abused in 1982 to see if he was okay.

“These files had to be ripped from their hands,” he said, noting that the lawyers who fought the 2010 case, Kelly Clark and Paul Mones, had “taken us from being a piece of paper to being a person that was offended, and that’s a huge difference.”

“This whole thing empowers us,” he said. “We’ve been powerless up to now. We’ve been at the whims of a multibillion-dollar organization that … has all the money to keep us under a desk in a box. And for now, they can’t do it anymore.”