The first trailer for Leave No Trace offers a revealing look inside the alleged century-long sexual abuse cover-up by the Boy Scouts of America that resulted in over 82,000 men coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse.
Executive produced by Ron Howard, directed by Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Irene Taylor and presented by ABC News Studios, the Imagine Documentaries and Vermilion Films production traces the downfall of the BSA following the accusations that the organization — which had the support of American presidents, CEOs and community leaders and had maintained a significant cultural influence since its founding in 1910 — was aware of pedophiles in its ranks for generations.
It also explores how declining membership — the financial lifeblood of the Boy Scouts — is connected to policies that failed to protect boys from sexually abusive scout leaders, resulting in the Scouts’ declaring bankruptcy in 2020 and a proposed reorganization plan that would feature the largest sexual abuse settlement in history.
The two-and-a-half-minute trailer previews the documentary’s material, including financial records, court documents as well as firsthand accounts from survivors seeking justice amid a high-stakes court case. It also includes interviews and taped depositions with former organizational leadership (and one highly placed insider) that uncover how its executives allegedly put the Boy Scouts’ financial considerations and interests ahead of the safety of tens of thousands of young boys.
At one point in the doc’s first look, a young survivor recounts how the abuse began not even a week into him joining his troop, but “the night I got there,” as his parents become emotional listening on next to him. “I just thought, ‘What is going on? Is this normal’?” he recounts. “It got much worse from that.”
To get to the bottom of a child abuse scandal rivaling that of the U.S. Catholic church, Taylor dives into what is dubbed the “perversion files,” or records of pedophile scout leaders — “over a thousand men that were using the program to abuse boys,” one subject says in the trailer — that were filled with “damning information” compiled by BSA organizational leadership.
Kept confidential at the organization’s headquarters, according to the film’s log lines, they allegedly contained and helped conceal for a century sexual abuse of young scouts, as pedophiles moved from troop to troop without warning. This was all while one of the most powerful institutions in America opted to prioritize banning gay scouts and leaders over reporting known sexual abusers to authorities, the film alleges.
During the trailer, survivors are also seen attempting to cope with their trauma and how the trajectory of their lives were shaped by the abuse, as they open up about what the organization’s principles taught them as young scouts — traits like loyalty, trustworthiness, kindness, bravery and obedience — and how the institution their parents trusted with the “most valuable thing they had” betrayed that very same trust.
“I’m 40 years old before I tell someone,” one survivor says. “And when the detective says he confessed to abusing you, I must have read that email a hundred times because I no longer had to prove to people I was abused.”
“It’s not just about a financial settlement,” another older survivor says. “It’s about the Boy Scouts admitting that they did wrong.”
In addition to directing, Taylor also produces, with Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes for Imagine Documentaries, Emily Singer Chapman and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nigel Jaquiss. Brian Grazer serves as executive producer alongside Howard and Taylor.
After premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 9, Leave No Trace will then debut on Hulu and release theatrically in New York and L.A. on June 16.