Boy Scout Sexual Abuse, A National Issue
Nationally, the number of former leaders suspected of boy scout sexual abuse totals 7,819, and the number of sexual abuse victims totals 12,254. The number of victims is truly shocking. The widespread abuse is unacceptable, and it is likely that lawsuits will be filed across the country with the purpose of finally achieving justice for the victims.
Previous Scandals & Boy Scout Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
The type of allegations against the Boy Scouts of America is not new. In 2012, a landmark lawsuit in Portland paved the way for others of its kind. Kelly Clark, a Portland attorney, represented an individual who had been molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980’s. The plaintiff was awarded nearly $20 million in damages, $1.4 in compensatory damages, and $18.5 million in punitive damages.
At the conclusion of the lawsuit, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of 14,500 pages of “perversion files” that had previously been under a protective order. Those “perversion files”, compiled between 1965-85, detailed allegations of sexual abuse, letters from parents and victims, and even police reports filed throughout the country. Soon after the founding of the Boy Scouts of America, files were collected pertaining to all proceedings of the organization. The files were made public to news organizations and on the attorney’s website, resulting in nearly 200,000 hits in 24-hours subsequently crashing the website.
Boy Scout Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Statute of Limitations
The landmark legal battle and the call for an adjustment for the statute of limitations laws have opened doors for other victims who had been sexually assaulted by Boy Scout leaders. In recent months, States have been working to modify the statute of limitation law for victims of sexual abuse that occurred long ago. New York recently passed a bill addressing the topic which will go into effect in August. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California all have similar legislature moving through the governing bodies.
As recently as 2018, a lawsuit was filed by an Arkansas man saying that Boy Scout officials allowed for a scout leader to continually be relocated after being accused of sexually assaulting boys in Georgia. The relocation eventually allowed for the scout leader to abuse the plaintiff years later.
“Since its inception, [the Boy Scouts of America] aggressively marketed the wholesomeness and safety of its programs to the American public,” the complaint states. “Simultaneously, BSA concealed from scouts and their parents BSA’s certain knowledge that pedophiles had been infiltrating BSA in large numbers for many years.”
While the files were made public in order to hold the accusers accountable for their actions and protect others from horrific sexual abuse, the number of files released was only a small portion. There are still many files that are not public, leading up to today’s call for the files to be made public.
The Boy Scouts of America have since made a statement that it has not been purposely hiding names of those accused of sexual abuse.
“We do not keep any reports of suspected abuse secret from the authorities,” Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said during a conference call with reporters on April 24, 2019.
In those files, it was found that in most instances, no action was taken to prosecute the abusers for their crimes, unacceptable response to the reports of thousands of children harmed by the actions of those trusted to protect them.
According to the files, some Scout officials pressured local organizers to allow accusers to remain as leaders with the requirement of attending therapy with a psychologist or priest. If the accuser was removed from the position, there was almost always no other penalizing action taken and no legal documentation made. The lack of criminal charges essentially allowed many accused leaders to go on with their lives, and even accept other jobs involving youths, yet there was no justice for the victims.