Boy Scout’s Honor Image

Boy Scout’s Honor

By Bradley Gibson | December 9, 2022

Writer-director Ash Patiño’s documentary Boy Scout’s Honor presents first-person narratives of the harrowing assaults endured by children when they were members of the Boy Scouts of America. Aaron Averhart was 8 years old when he was moving up from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. Scout leader Bill Sheehan singled him out to join the Boy Scout’s summer camp program in Fort Myers, Florida.

As Averhart progressed in the Scouts, he rose up the ranks and spent a great deal of time away from home. He continued in Boy Scouts for years. In 1989, Averhart accused Sheehan, who was 50 at the time, of sexually molesting him at Camp Miles in Punta Gorda, Florida. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office found insufficient evidence to pursue the case.

Decades later, Averhart used internet searches in the hopes of learning that Sheehan had died, seeking closure from the emotional torment he still suffered. Eventually, he found an article from the Boston Globe in which he learned that Sheehan had assaulted many boys over the years. As it turns out, there were many survivors, and Averhart began calling them to try to piece the full story together.

We learn in Boy Scout’s Honor that the Scouts organization, like the Catholic church, had kept records of offending Scout leaders going back nearly 100 years. Also, like the church, they moved the offenders around when the situation threatened to come to light rather than turn them over to the authorities and endure a public scandal for an organization seen as a wholesome American tradition.

When enough allegations surfaced to corroborate Averhart’s 1989 claims, Massachusetts authorities decided to charge Sheehan but found him too far gone from Alzheimer’s to understand the charges against him. Sheehan died in 2017, having never been held accountable. As this story emerged, the Boy Scouts of America had around 90,000 sexual assault lawsuits filed against them.

“…first-person narratives of the harrowing assaults endured by children when they were members of the Boy Scouts…”

Boy Scout’s Honor is a hard film to watch. Several survivors speak about what happened to them. It’s painful to see the men interviewed who are clearly still suffering trauma from the abuse that happened when they were children. The fact that it occurred repeatedly and that the organization knew about it should fill any parent with dread for their children, even to this day. I can’t imagine deciding to send a boy to Scouts after this.

Attorney Bruce Nagel has taken this issue on as a cause and works with survivors to pursue their cases. In his interview, Nagel describes how The Boy Scouts organization kept a list of scout leaders who have allegedly committed abuse against boys. The list includes the names of nearly 8,000 leaders and dates back to 1944. The files also include the names of more than 12,000 victims.

Patiño focuses her career in documentary film and TV work on crime and justice, and Boy Scout’s Honor fits neatly into that oeuvre. She has a steady hand and a clear, confident voice presenting the narrative of the abuse suffered by boys in the Scouts. The film does tend toward overly dramatized segments that feel sensationalized, but those scenes are definitely attention-grabbers and keep the audience engaged.

One curious fact about the film is that it’s produced by Nagel, the attorney representing many of the assault survivors. Does that make the film an infomercial for his practice? That may be a stretch, but the question does come up when considering why the doc exists.

With its heavy, awful subject matter, Patiño’s film is certainly not Saturday-afternoon popcorn cinema. Still, Boy Scout’s Honor is an important document of a horrific series of events related to a beloved institution that will inform and educate the viewer about that situation.

For screening information, visit the Boy Scout’s Honor official website.

Boy Scout's Honor (2022)

Directed and Written: Ash Patiño

Starring: Aaron Averhart, Bruce Nagel, Bradley Rice, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Boy Scout's Honor Image

"…an important document...that will inform and educate the viewer..."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon