Victim of Boy Scout Sexual Abuse? What Survivors Need to Know

by Frank E. Lamothe, III

The sex abuse scandal that erupted in the Boy Scouts of America caused turmoil and pain for many, but hopefully, it was also the beginning of healing. Any organization working with young people has a responsibility to protect those wards from evildoings. In this, the BSA failed.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a scoutmaster or other person in a position of authority in the BSA, you have recourse. Even though the BSA has filed for bankruptcy following the sex abuse scandal, you can still gain recompense and reconciliation or try and find some peace.

The BSA: An American Institution

The Boy Scouts of America is a vast youth organization, one of the largest in the country, with almost 2½ million youths taking part and over 800,000 adult volunteers. In 1979, the organization was even larger, with over 5 million young people participating.

It isn’t fair to allege that the BSA never tried to do anything about the scandal. In the 1980s, the BSA instituted the Youth Protection Program, which put forth policies to ensure youth safety. They include stipulations about no one-on-one contact between leaders and participants, separate accommodations, and proper attire.

The YPP aimed to protect the youths that took part in the Scouts, but it also sought to prevent false accusations against the adult leaders. Although this is a good start, critics still scolded the BSA for not administering comprehensive background checks on their adult volunteers.

According to the BSA, 90% of the pending litigation suits dealing with sexual abuse stem from over 30 years ago.

Crimes Against Children

With the revelations of the purported Perversion Files – files that document the many sexual abuse occurrences in the BSA – thousands have come forward to file claims against their abusers.

The public learned that the BSA had known about the abuse and, much like the Catholic Church, covered it up for more than a century. The abuse happened in almost all of the different scouting programs, including Cub Scouting, Sea Scouting, Venturing, and, sadly, more.

When investigators finally accessed the P Files in 2019, they pored over hundreds of confidential files that stretched from the 1970s to the 1990s. What they found was that abuse had indeed occurred and that the BSA had actively covered it up. The abusers were never brought to the police, so they were never punished or prosecuted… until now.

Instead of bringing the sexual abusers in positions of power in the BSA to justice, Scouting officials covered it up, burying the files so that no one, apart from the abusers and their victims, would ever know what was happening.

What Does the Bankruptcy Filing Mean for Victims?

The BSA has filed for bankruptcy, but that doesn’t mean they will not be held responsible for the actions of those that they put in charge of young people. The BSA made this extreme financial move after thousands of alleged victims came forward, straining the BSA’s resources.

Directly after the bankruptcy filing, the judge gave a deadline of only 80 days for victims to file against their abusers. But victims’ rights groups fought the injunction, and the deadline for accusations has been moved to November 16, 2020.

Many victims and those working for victims’ justice have filed against the BSA. Despite the bankruptcy, they are moving to file against the individuals specifically involved in the sexual abuse scandal as well as fighting the organization as a whole.

The Final Word

Taking advantage of a child is one of the most dastardly acts an adult can inflict. Perhaps an equally abhorrent act is being part of the systemic cover-up of abuse that potentially led to thousands of more victims.

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse while you were a part of the Boy Scouts of America, there are steps you can take to pursue reparation and justice. Even though the BSA recently filed for bankruptcy, that does not mean that its members can’t be taken to court.

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