Over the past number of years, we have seen many organizations being named in allegations of sexual abuse. Whether or not it was sparked by the #MeToo movement, it seems victims of abuse are now finding their voices and speaking out about the systemic failures which have allowed this abuse to both happen and remain secret.
One of these organizations is the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
According to an article from NPR, Boy Scouts of America is currently facing more than 300 lawsuits stemming from sexual abuse allegations made by former scouts.
The New York Times reports that the organization, run mostly by volunteers, has documentation showing that there have been approximately 8,000 people within BSA accused of perpetrating sexual abuse since BSA’s founding in 1910. However, lawyers told The New York Times that there are hundreds of new allegations that have recently been brought by former BSA members.
The large number of abuse allegations has forced BSA to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Other organizations facing similar allegations (such as USA Gymnastics and the Catholic Church) have also sought protection by filing for bankruptcy.
For years, the Boy Scouts of America has used insurance to help cover any litigation and lawsuits, but most insurance companies are now reluctant to help BSA in the future, because they claim BSA knew about the ongoing abuse and didn’t do enough to put an end to it. Without protection from the insurance companies, BSA now finds itself having to pay large sums of money to its victims.
The logic is that, if BSA files for bankruptcy, they can then set up a separate fund to be used to compensate victims.
BSA’s chief executive, Roger Mosby, told the BBC “while we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process – with the proposed trust structure – will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”
The Boy Scouts of America filed their Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 18, 2020 in the state of Delaware. It’s expected they will soon establish a deadline by which victims can come forward and initiate legal action against BSA.
New laws have also been passed in multiple states that allow victims of abuse to sue long after the original statutes of limitations has run out, making the process much easier on victims who have been keeping their abuse quiet for years or even decades.
A group of victims and lawyers have created a group called Abused in Scouting, which encourages former BSA members to come forward now about any sexual abuse they may have endured during their time in BSA. The New York Times reports that this campaign has resulted in about 2,000 additional people filing complaints, with victims coming from every state in the country.
The national chair of Boy Scouts of America, Tim Turley, released an open letter to victims of abuse on Tuesday. Here is the letter in its entirety:
Any incident of child abuse is one too many.
As a father, a former Scout, and the National Chair of the Boy Scouts of America, I am truly heartbroken that you were harmed during your time in Scouting and that you carry unfathomable pain.
I am outraged that individuals took advantage of our programs to commit these heinous acts.
I am also outraged that there were times when volunteers and employees ignored our procedures or forgave transgressions that are unforgivable.
In some cases, this led to tragic acts of abuse. While those instances were limited, they mean we didn’t do enough to protect the children in our care — to protect you.
On behalf of myself and the entire Scouting community: I am sorry. I am devastated that there were times in the past when we failed the very children we were supposed to protect.
Please know we have worked consistently over many years to implement multilayered policies to keep kids safe.
As knowledge on child sexual abuse prevention has advanced, so have our expert-informed policies, including mandatory background checks and trainings, a ban on one-on-one interactions between youth and adults, and mandatory reporting of any suspicion of abuse to law enforcement.
Today, we believe the BSA’s youth safety measures are the strongest and most effective policies found in any youth-serving organization.
I regret that these measures weren’t always in place or weren’t always enough. The fact is that predators harmed innocent children in Scouting programs, and for this I am deeply sorry.
The BSA cannot undo what happened to you, but we are committed to supporting you and to doing everything in our power to prevent it from happening to others. It is a social and moral responsibility that I and the entire organization take extremely seriously.
We believe that all victims should receive our support and compensation — and we have taken decisive action to make that possible.
Speciﬁcally, the national organization of the Boy Scouts of America has initiated a voluntary ﬁnancial restructuring to ensure we can equitably compensate all victims of past abuse in our programs, through a proposed Victim’s Compensation Trust.
I encourage you, and all victims to come forward and ﬁle claims so you can receive compensation from this Trust. We will provide clear notices about how to do so.
I want you to know that we believe you, we believe in compensating you, and we have programs in place to pay for counseling for you and your family by a provider of your choice.
We have also partnered with 1in6, a trusted national resource for male survivors, to expand their services so that you are able to anonymously access vital support from trained advocates when and how you need it. You can access these services at www.1in6.org/BSA.
The abuse you suffered weighs on us all every day. But your courage also motivates us to do more for the children we are entrusted to protect. We will do better — for you, for kids today, and for kids tomorrow.
Yours in Scouting,
Boy Scouts of America