Sexual abuse of children is a horrifically widespread problem in many of the institutions that are (or were) pillars of society. The Catholic Church is a prominent example. However, another core American institution – the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) – has also been covering up abuse on a far greater scale than ever imagined. The total number of claims against the Boy Scouts has now surpassed the number of claims against the Catholic Church nationwide.
More than 95,000 sexual abuse claims have been lodged against the BSA in its federal bankruptcy case. Once a seemingly wholesome community for boys to learn values, ethics and important life skills, the organization has quickly become a sinking ship with a wholly tarnished reputation. In a 2010 lawsuit involving sexual abuse, the BSA had to pay nearly $20 million in damages. It was also forced to disclose more than 20,000 confidential documents (dubbed “the perversion files”) showing how the organization kept sweeping abuse allegations under the rug. Since then, membership has dropped sharply, and in February, the BSA filed for bankruptcy.
As part of the bankruptcy case, sexual abuse survivors had until November 16th to come forward with claims against the BSA. The next stages in the process involves investigating those claims, inventorying the BSA’s assets and determining the extent of its insurance coverage.
That process takes time. Survivors likely won’t get payouts until next summer at the earliest.
Survivors can still come forward
While the federal bankruptcy deadline for claims has closed, those who have suffered sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts – or any organization – may still bring claims under New York’s Child Victims Act. The deadline for those claims has been extended until August 2021.
While the federal bankruptcy case involves the national BSA organization, state-law claims might involve local Boy Scout councils or sponsoring organizations. In fact, claims against sponsoring organizations are often stronger because those organizations frequently knew about the abuse, but did nothing about it.
For survivors, coming forward is a big step, and it takes courage. The first small step – one that is safe and confidential – is to speak with an attorney about your options.