Over 3,000 men have come forward to sue the Boy Scouts of America, claiming they were molested when they were minors, under the care of the Boy Scouts. Many more are expected to come forward, now that the Boy Scouts of America non-profit has officially filed for bankruptcy. Our Las Vegas bankruptcy lawyers note that there are many legal issues at play with this story.
Victims Are Now Coming Forward With the Stories of Their Abuse
One such man who has come forward is now 74-years-old and has kept his secret silent for over six decades.
“I was very naïve,” he said. “But when [the scoutmaster] grabbed my groin, I immediately reacted.” Sadly, so did the scoutmaster. He then threatened the boy with a machete. “Even now,” the man said, “when I think about it, I get this gut-wrenching feeling. Because of his threats, I never told anybody… what happened to me was brief but traumatic. It’s one reason why I carry a gun with me everywhere I go.”
The man is now a prominent Louisiana resident, joining the mass of other former Boy Scouts who were sexually abused as children or young men. Attorney Stewart Eisenberg shared that it’s “crucial for all those who were victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward now, so that claims can be handled in bankruptcy court. We think that all victims of Boy Scout-related sex abuse should receive a meaningful measure of justice.”
Bankruptcy Filing Is Suspected as a Tactic to Limit Damages
Another lawyer, Michael Mertz, based out of Chicago, has represented Boy Scouts victims in the past. He believes that by declaring bankruptcy, Boy Scouts of America is attempting to limit the damages that they are facing. “This is an effort by the national organization to avoid paying full and fair compensation to victims of abuse,” Mertz stated. “Those who’ve been hurt by the Boy Scouts should consider acting now while they still can.”
A third attorney, Michael Barasch, who has represented hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse, agrees with the statements made by Mertz and Eisenberg. “For far too many years, the Boy Scouts of America turned a blind eye to credible allegations of sexual abuse. Now, instead of recognizing its responsibility to compensate survivors fully, the organization has decided to hide behind the Bankruptcy Code. In my experience representing individuals with sexual abuse claims, it has become clear that the enforced silence – the refusal of adults who should have known better to acknowledge serious trauma and make amends – only exacerbates their suffering.”
Victims Who Share Their Story Spread a Powerful Message
Whether the support found in the recent #metoo movement motivated these men to come forward, or perhaps it was the need for closure and justice, or the sincere desire to rid themselves of the traumatic weight they’ve been carrying for years – it is admirable they are now bravely sharing their voices and stories. The hope may be that the more victims who share the stories of their own sexual abuse, the more potential-abusers will become aware that these behaviors are abhorrent, disgusting, and will not be tolerated; in fact, the contemporary culture is ever-more supportive of victims speaking out against abusive individuals and organizations. We are not in 1950 anymore. These behaviors will not stand, and the victims will not be threatened into silence forever.
Boy Scouts Led to Bankruptcy by an Unmanageable Number of Claims
Stephen Crew, an Oregon-based attorney, shared that even though the Boy Scouts of America organization has declared bankruptcy, this doesn’t mean the organization is unfixable. “What it means is the number of claims against the Boy Scouts has gotten to the point where they’re having difficulty managing them, and they’re having difficulty with their cash flow.”
In their official statement, the National Chair of the Boy Scouts, Jim Turley, as well as the National Commissioner, Ellie Morrison, and the President and CEO, Roger Mosby, all conceded that the Boy Scouts of America sought Chapter 11 Bankruptcy because the organization was facing enormous legal costs due to defending itself against the sexual abuse lawsuits.
A Boy Scouts spokesman said, “The BSA intends to use the Chapter 11 process to create a Victims Compensation Trust that would provide equitable compensation to victims.” The Boy Scouts organization also claims that their scouting is “safer now than ever before.”
Boy Scouts May Be Forced to Open Abuse Files
Mitchell Garabedian, whose work going after Roman Catholic priests was made into the film “Spotlight,” represents Boy Scout victims as well. He said the move to bankruptcy court might force the organization to open up its ‘perversion files.’ Those files date back to 1944 and contain the names of almost 8,000 leaders who allegedly sexually abused the scouts. The files also contain the names of over 12,000 victims. As of today, only the files from 1965-1985 are public.
Crew told an NBC affiliate that the BSA kept those files “under lock and key… However, the Boy Scouts also had a program called the probation program whereby they put Scout leaders who had been caught sexually abusing Scouts [on] probation and allowed them to continue scouting, often with disastrous results.”
Best of luck to the victims involved in this ugly case.