Leave No Trace is an odd title for a documentary like this. Even more odd is how there is little reviews to find of it despite it being released over a week ago by ABC News on Hulu. Why aren’t many critics reviewing this movie about the decades-long sexual abuse and cover-up by the Boy Scouts of America?
There are no user reviews on Imdb.com. And only two professional critics have reviewed it. Or that’s what I was able to find just by doing a quick search. I wonder why that is.
For decades the notion that scout masters are sexually abusing young boys was a sick, tasteless joke like priests sexually abusing young boys and girls. Surely, this was an isolated incident that got blown out of proportion, right? Wrong. As the Boston Globe reported 20 years ago, this was a huge case that went back decades and spanned the entire world as the Catholic Church sheltered the abusers from prosecution.
We learn the BSA did the same thing with their scout masters. And as one interviewee, the idea we’d let just one grown man take several young boys out camping in isolation should’ve been seen as a red flag, but maybe we were foolish enough to think back then, it wouldn’t happen. There should have been warning signs with grown men who wanted to be around young children. I’ve thought the same about youth ministers. I’had a case with a Methodist youth minister who was removed after an investigation allegedly found child pornography. Yet no charges were filed.
Leave No Trace is an odd title as the BSA liked to portray their scouts as spotless. When Normal Rockwell was commissioned to make drawings, he was strongly advised against showing the scouts in any negative light. He wasn’t even allowed to show a scout with rain drops on his uniform for a drawing that showed a teenage scout carrying a younger person. There obviously was a dangerous angle the BSA was playing.
What’s sad is most of the abused really enjoyed scouts. They talk about looking forward to summer time so they can go to camp. In an era in which we say children spend too much time indoors, these young children didn’t want to go inside when it got dark. And that’s where the abusers were able to find their prey. One of the abused was fatherless. They never had a chance.
Also during this era, it was a crime against humanity to question an older person, especially one in authority, which was a scout master. It was also an era in which victim blaming was very common. If you’re a young boy who has been molested or even raped by an older man, then that makes you gay and you must have liked it or else you would’ve fought back, right? The predators knew exactly what they were doing.
And the BSA was allowing them to do it at the same time restricting access to anyone who is openly gay. The irony is on full display. A good portion of the documentary directed by Irene Taylor focuses on what led to the historic $2.7 billion settlement case as the BSA had been sued on the sexual assault claims. This caused the BSA to file for bankruptcy.
I’ve noticed in recent decades since I was in the BSA, membership has dropped. Maybe as the 21st Century dawned, people became more cautious. I do remember a troop in the town in which I covered news had low membership and it appeared the parents were always in attendance at the meeting. This was different from my youth in which we were dropped off usually at a Methodist church multipurpose building. Maybe some parents have been victims and suppressed it but don’t allow their kids to be alone.
Or maybe the idea of scouting is no long appealing. Considering this part of Oklahoma has recreational lakes and many state parks and wilderness areas, it seems like it would be idyllic. But the stigmata has already been set and after watching this documentary, I don’t suppose many parents will let their kids join.
What do you think? Please comment.