When parents enroll their children in youth organizations or religious organizations, they place their trust in the institutions and the adults chosen to lead them. Unfortunately, in a number of youth programs, that trust turned out to be horribly misplaced. One of the leading examples may be the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which has long been accused of covering up sexual abuse of children by adult leaders and volunteers.
In recent years, as lawsuits and criminal investigations have forced the BSA to open up its private records, the public has learned just how widespread and horrifying the pattern of sexual abuse has been. According to recent news reports, the sheer number of lawsuits pending against the BSA is causing the organization to consider filing for bankruptcy.
The recorded incidents alone are astonishing. A researcher who examined records from 1944 through 2016 uncovered 12,254 victims who had been sexually abused by at least 7,819 named abusers. These figures do not tell the full story, as many victims were probably abused on numerous occasions and many perpetrators went on to abuse additional victims. And of course, there are likely many incidents that were never reported.
Even with the BSA’s $1 billion in assets, the organization is well short of what would be needed to both pay the costs of litigation and begin to compensate victims. Therefore, the group will likely follow the example set by many dioceses in the Catholic Church and file for bankruptcy protection, leaving victims with limited options.
The Boy Scouts of America has a difficult and complicated legacy. On one hand, the organization has done a lot of good for many members, who will enjoy lifelong memories and wilderness skills. On the other hand, it turned a blind eye to widespread sexual abuse of children, allowing it to continue for the better part of a century. The question now will be: Can the organization properly make amends and restitution for the harm it has caused, or is this the beginning of the end for the BSA?
If you have experienced sexual abuse in a youth organization or any other context, please don’t carry that burden alone. Reach out for help and support. And if you decide to pursue justice and compensation against your abuser or an institution that allowed abuse to occur, please discuss your legal options with the experienced and compassionate attorneys at our firm.