Produced by Hulu and ABC News, there has perhaps never been a more fitting time to release shocking documentary, Leave No Trace: A Hidden History of the Boy Scouts, into the world. The film celebrates a historic victory achieved just this year, in 2022: The Boy Scouts of America reaching a $2.7 billion payout for sexual abuse victims. However, it goes so much deeper than one would anticipate. In fact, the disgusting history of pedophilia is directly interweaved into the core of the Boy Scouts, polluting its brand. Surely the morals and survival skills the Scouts try to implement are good-intentioned; and yet, Leave No Trace: A Hidden History of the Boy Scouts made me sick to my stomach as it examines every piece of evidence that exists… and there is a whole lot of it.
I was never in the Boy Scouts myself, yet my husband is a proud Eagle Scout graduate. This is perhaps my only level of reference to the experience, though I did dabble in 4H with my sister all the way back in middle school. I can certainly relate with wanting to be a part of something, and for many young boys, the Scouts offered just that. It helped build character and strength, also suggesting positive morals and an uplifting message. To see it corrupted, and how it trickles all the way to the very bottom of the food chain is deplorable.
In 2020, The Boy Scouts of America were forced to declare bankruptcy after the amount of payouts to sexually assaulted victims became the straw that broke the camel’s back. During this time, over 7,500 claimants came forward, shocking the nation. Leave No Trace: A Hidden History of the Boy Scouts delivers damning proof and horrifying interviews with many victims of sexual abuse from Scout Masters and people in power. Hearing someone recount that their first “ejaculation” was from a Scout Master, or that they caught gonorrhea at age sixteen after being passed between leaders is sure to be triggering to victims. Add to this that the company not only knowingly covered up the crimes, but also concocted reasons for these horrible men to have left the company or even retired out, and it is enough to make one reach for the barf bag.
I found it particularly shocking that the Scouts went out of their way to hide or simply transfer known perpetrators of sexual assault over to different sites, yet when it came to any member being openly gay, they were shunned and removed from the program entirely. How one can make peace with awarding pedophiles but judgmental of one’s sexuality is indeed perplexing. Eventually, the doc goes into the attempts to get the IV files released, or the ones containing all the documented cases of sexual assault within the Boy Scouts company. Offensively, there are doodles on some of the memos, which seems to suggest The Boy Scouts clearly don’t take things seriously.
Despite numerous attempts at reform, The Boy Scouts have remained a constant source of sexual issues towards young children. Parents put their full trust in so many of these Scout Masters only to get screwed over to an insane degree. We can only hope that a world rewarding child porn distributors with retirement benefits when they get out of prison is one that will have to change very soon. I cannot understand how anyone could love or endorse the sneaky and awful way that the Scouts fumbled the ball by trying to cover up crimes.
As a gay man, it hurts my soul to know that so many of these little kids were taken advantage of, and not even been mature enough to have an option of consenting. Queer or not, there are a wild amount of sick individuals in this world, and we simply cannot allow them to keep getting away with this. As they say in the film, money isn’t everything, but it certainly helps. I can only hope that little smidge of help will give these tormented victims at least the slightest bit of comfort.
Leave No Trace: A Hidden History of the Boy Scouts screened at 2022’s Tribeca Film Festival.