"We're deeply sorry," says Boy Scouts of America, and promises to compensate the survivors of sexual abuse.
Trigger Warning: This report has details of child sexual abuse that readers may find disturbing
More than 92,000 sexual abuse claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America, which could mean curtains for the century-old institution. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for bankruptcy as the sexual abuse claims started piling up from former scouts. As of Sunday, an estimate of 82,000 claims had been filed against BSA but the number shot up ahead of the deadline for submitting claims on Monday, reported CNN. According to court testimony in April 2019, BSA believed more than 7,800 of its former leaders had sexually abused at least 12,000 children since the late 1940s. Van Arsdale, one of the lead attorneys, who spoke to thousands of reported survivors over the past 19 months alleged that sexual abuse in the BSA was an unspoken norm and even considered a rite of passage. "Based on what we are hearing from survivors, sexual abuse was a rite of passage in troops across the country, similar to other tasks where children had to... perform certain duties to earn their coveted merit badges," said Arsdale, in a statement.
Many of the sexual abuse cases allege repeated fondling, exposure to pornography, and forced anal or oral sex. The organization filed for bankruptcy in February, which has put a halt to normal court proceedings, but in a bankruptcy court. By moving the court proceedings to bankruptcy court, abuse survivors won't get a chance to confront their abusers in court. "Their lives won't be scrutinized, but they lose their right to a jury trial. For a lot of abuse survivors, telling their story in a court of law and forcing the organizations to defend their actions can be cathartic. That won't happen with a bankruptcy," said Michael Pfau, a Seattle-based attorney, who's representing hundreds of alleged victims.
Pfau believes the number of sexual abuses claims against BSA could exceed the ones against the Catholic Church. "The Catholic bankruptcies are limited in geographic scope. Here there will be claimants from all 50 states and the American territories," said Pfau. "We can talk about files and numbers, but in reality, if you step back and realize the scope of the human carnage, it's stunning." As it filed for bankruptcy, BSA said it was "outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our program to abuse innocent children." The organization tried to make changes prior to filing for bankruptcy, including allowing girls to join, naming a new president, and partnering with an organization for male survivors of sex abuse.
BSA said it had filed bankruptcy with the intention of "equitably compensating all the victims of abuse," said BSA national chairman Jim Turley. "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," wrote Turley. BSA is following the path of the USA Gymnastics, and the Catholic diocese by declaring bankruptcy against sexual abuse claims. BSA has listed assets of between $1 billion and $10 billion and has liabilities estimated at between $100 million and $500 million.
Attorney Van Arsdale has doubts that BSA will help compensate the alleged victims. "The question remains if the BSA will make good on their word to do everything in their power to make the tens of thousands of lives they altered better. The BSA failed them once as children. We hope they do not do it again this time around," said Van Arsdale in an email.
A recent statement from the Boy Scouts said, "We intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation. The response we have seen from survivors has been gut-wrenching. We are deeply sorry. We are committed to working as expeditiously as possible to provide survivors of abuse with equitable compensation."