The Netflix documentary Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America offers a searing look at sexual abuse within one of the country’s most storied institutions. Arguably the most powerful component of the film is the voices of survivors bravely sharing how the abuse has impacted their lives.
Recently, some of the survivors and clinicians who have contributed content to SurvivorSpace viewed the documentary. Their responses are below:
“The Netflix documentary, Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America was incredibly painful and devastating to watch as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself. However, the voices of these survivors were deeply powerful and profoundly sobering. It is difficult to conceptualize the magnitude of this tragedy. Over 80,000 claims filed against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) represents a significant and irreparable loss for countless survivors, families, and communities across this nation. I believe each and every BSA survivor who has, will, or may never come forward, including all of those survivors whose stories are featured. Your voices can and will save lives and change our institutions for the better. When the truth prevails over silence, abuse cannot survive.” – Dustin
“Time and time again, I am hit the hardest with the impact of revictimization. The (original) sexual abuse is of course horrific and inexecusable, but somehow I can make sense of it in my brain – that there exists out there in the world these individuals who seek to harm children. I can put these “bad guys” into some kind of category in my mind, and as much as I detest it, I can make sense of the idea that these “bad guys” exist and go about looking to do harm. It’s the so-called “good guys” who stand by and do nothing, and even more, the “good guys” who actively hide, suppress, and cover up in a million ways…I can never reconcile that part. The idea that children weren’t believed, and that they were intentionally and systematically silenced–that they were quite literally re-victimized by the people and the systems that should have protected them. I don’t have the words yet to eloquently wrap this all up in a small social media blurb, but every damn time it is this part that destroys my soul the most. It is also what fuels my passion the most intensely.” – Clinical Psychologist working with SurvivorSpace
“This film was a powerful force highlighting a place of honor turned to dishonor. A day of reckoning for survivors was described in the beginning of the film and I felt the ripple effect of that truth throughout. As a survivor of child sexual abuse and sexual assault myself as an adolescent I just want to commend the survivors in this film for filling places of validated rage with valiant courage. The courage of the male survivors is unmatched in the sense of what it took each individual to gain the courage to come forward with such risk and cost and power behind the organization at hand. The most unmatched piece is the fact that the voice of one man was actually a voice FOR many, so many victims (like thousands) and the courageous steps each of the male survivors have taken in the work of prevention. Quoted by Mike Johnson about his role at the Boy Scouts. “Do you want the truth or what I was told to say” says everything. The survivors boldly saying they don’t want the money or the organization to be shut down (which I would totally understand if they did, and rightly so) is bravery in itself. They just want change and THAT is honorable beyond any oath of Boy Scout Honor they took years ago”. – Melanie Sachs Barton, Survivor Advocate
Abusers exploit victims’ fears of their information becoming public. The threats, fear, and shame are weaponized very actively to silence sexual abuse victims. And through this documentary, we see very clearly that a massive, national organization did the same. The abuse within their organization continued because of the fear of going public and the power of their organizational culture of secrecy. And in both cases, secrecy and shame are the weapons. When people in positions of power (whether they are sexual abusers or CEOs) exercise the power of secrecy and shame, someone inevitably has to do the unbelievably difficult work of coming forward to shine a light on truth. Truth-telling HAS to be the path to breaking down these cycles and the stigma. When survivors stand and speak their truth, not only do we see their personal stigma and shame begin to subside, we also see the power for our culture to shift. If secrecy is the poison, then truth is the antidote. Overwhelmingly, this documentary reminds me so clearly of the power and strength of survivors. None of the progress we are seeing in this movement can even begin to happen without the strength of survivors.” – Sarah W. Helms, Ph.D.