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Lawsuit says Boy Scouts knew of widespread abuse

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (Reuters) - A Texas teenager repeatedly molested by his scoutmaster filed a lawsuit alleging that the "dirty little secret" in the Boy Scouts of America is that it attracts molesters and hides this from scouts and parents.

"From at least the 1960s, Defendants knew that predatory sexual abusers were registering as scoutmasters, assistant scoutmasters, and adult volunteers for the purpose of molesting and otherwise harming scouts," the lawsuit filed on Wednesday says.

The victim, who is now 18 and filed the lawsuit under the fictitious name of "John Adams," was molested by Scoutmaster James Hiatt in Converse, near San Antonio, in 2004 and 2005. Hiatt was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child in 2008 and is now serving a prison term.

"Abuse is - and always has been - unacceptable, and the Boy Scouts of America extends its sympathies to the victims," Deron Smith, a Boy Scouts of America spokesman, said in a written statement on Thursday. "Recognizing that youth protection requires sustained vigilance, BSA was on the forefront of developing youth protection policies and continues to develop and enhance efforts to protect youth through clear policies, training of adult volunteers, and effective screening of volunteers."

The lawsuit says that Hiatt became a "father figure" in the boy's life at a time when his own father was absent. Because of Boy Scouts of America's "failure to educate John and his mother about the problem of sexual abuse in scouting, John's mother mistook Hiatt's predatory interest in her son as that of a caring fatherly affection," the document says.

"For John Adams, scouting was the time in his life where his childhood was stolen," the lawsuit says.

Adams is asking the court for unspecified damages.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune)

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