Since a lawsuit was filed in 2019 against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), many people have become aware of the hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse against the organization. Sadly, estimates indicate that these reports of abuse likely represent only a small fraction of the victims. A recent decision by a federal bankruptcy judge has secured $2.4 billion in compensation for these victims.
Following the beginning of the lawsuit, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in 2020, noting that they wanted a financial restructuring to “equitably compensate all victims of past abuse.” On September 8, 2022, a federal bankruptcy judge granted final approval on the reorganization plan, which included $2.4 billion in compensation earmarked for paying abuse survivors’ claims.
The Goldblatt + Singer Law Firm is handling lawsuits against the BSA for anyone who experienced sexual abuse by BSA scout masters or other trusted elders who worked in scouting programs in St. Louis. Although thousands of victims have already come forward, it’s estimated that many others exist. More than 4,700 men reached out to attorneys after the initial story broke on MSNBC in 2019, and by 2022, over 80,000 had filed lawsuits. If you also suffered abuse in the Scouts, please contact our firm for a free, confidential consultation about your options.
The 2019 lawsuit identified 350 abusive scout masters and BSA volunteers, although the actual numbers are likely higher. Estimates by the FBI suggest that each perpetrator abused 100 boys or about 35,000 BSA victims who have yet to file claims. But because more than 120 million children have taken part in the BSA program since it was founded over 100 years ago, there are probably many more victims.
Currently, victims alleging abuse by members of the Boy Scouts of America range in age from 16 to 97. One lawsuit described this longstanding problem as a “pedophilia epidemic.”
The BSA itself now says that it believes the victims and wants to make things right, but unfortunately, the organization has a long history of concealing its sex abuse problems and protecting abusers. Many of the previously filed lawsuits state that BSA failed in its duty to properly vet scoutmasters and other troop elders, despite those individuals being trusted with the care of children. Sadly, the organization has been silently removing abusers from its program for more than 100 years, since 1916, but it hasn’t always been vocal in reporting the abuse to the authorities, preventing future abuse, or warning parents about it.
2020 wasn’t the first time the BSA faced a lawsuit over child sex abuse, although it might have been the largest case. Over the years, other victims have sued the Scouts, resulting in a judge ordering the organization to release its files pertaining to predatory Scout leaders in 2010. The BSA itself called this list of offenders the “Perversion Files” or “P Files.” At one point, the Scouts hired an expert to review the files, and the results were horrifying – from 1944 to 2016, 12,254 boys reported being sexually abused by at least 7,800 suspected assailants, and those were only the cases in which the victims came forward.
However, many victims who reported their abusers to the BSA claim that the authorities were never notified. In some cases, the perpetrators were removed from their positions, but in others, they were allowed to continue working with kids. Sadly, the records show that despite knowing about the abuse problem, the BSA did little or nothing to stop it or prevent further occurrences. Another problem is that recent lawsuits have revealed many more alleged abusers who were never mentioned in the files.
The BSA claims it has made efforts to not only assist victims but also screen out predators in the future. They point to background checks and a hotline they set up for Scouts and their families to report abuse, but many believe these steps don’t go far enough. One mother who called the hotline to report her son’s abuse told Time that the only help she received was being instructed to contact the local police.
According to the CDC, childhood sex abuse (CSA) can have lifelong effects on its victims. Adults who experience this abuse as children have an increased risk of many physical and mental health issues in adulthood, including chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and obesity. There is also an increased risk of depression, PTSD, substance use disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide attempts, and further sexual violence. Additionally, adult survivors have twice the risk of non-sexual violence from intimate partners.
We encourage you to speak with a mental health specialist if you’re struggling with mental health difficulties following childhood abuse. Seeking counseling and other treatment options may help you to process your trauma and move forward with your life. We can direct you to free or low-cost resources if you cannot afford treatment.
Can I file a lawsuit and maintain my privacy?
Yes. Many clients have expressed a desire to remain anonymous throughout the lawsuit process. You have every right to your privacy in this difficult matter, and we will assist you in filing a claim and reporting the abuse to authorities confidentially. The terms of the bankruptcy proceeding include not publishing claims submitted under the proceeding. In addition, we will take further steps to ensure your privacy.
Nothing. There are no up-front costs to begin the process of suing the BSA for your damages. We don’t charge you anything until after we’ve settled your case.
Yes. This is very common, and many current claimants never reported their abuse.
Unfortunately, abusers often manipulate their victims into blaming themselves, which may prevent them from reporting the crime. In other situations, the perpetrator may have threatened to harm the victim, family, or friends. The fact that you didn’t come forward earlier is in no way your fault, and you deserve justice now.
Proving negligence and harm resulting from that negligence are usually important considerations in a civil suit. However, due to the extensive nature of the abuse allegations in this case, and the fact that many CSA survivors don’t come forward right away, this is less of a problem. Many of the claimants in the 2019 cases came forward to report abuse that occurred decades ago.
Also, an unfortunate truth of the BSA case is that most of the perpetrators involved had multiple victims. Sadly, it’s very likely we will find other former Scouts who can corroborate what happened to you with their own experiences.
This does not prevent you from filing a civil suit. The burden of proof for a criminal trial is much higher, asking jury members to decide if the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil trial, the jury only has to decide if the defendant is more likely guilty than not based on a “preponderance of evidence.” There are many situations in which the police or district attorney don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to charge a person with a crime, but the plaintiff can still win a civil suit.
Additionally, most lawsuits in the BSA case will not even need to go to trial due to the nature and size of the case. Most likely, we will be able to settle your case with the BSA, their insurers, and in some cases, other defendants such as local organizations that worked with the Scouts.
This is affected by many factors, and it’s difficult to say for certain how long it will take. At Goldblatt + Singer, we promise to keep our clients updated on the case’s progress, and we will let you know of each new development that occurs.
If you are unsure, we recommend speaking with an attorney about what you remember. Your consultation is completely confidential and we will be able to answer any questions you have at no charge.
In general, it’s helpful to understand that any time an adult has any sort of sexual contact with a child, that’s child sex abuse. It doesn’t matter if the child “consented,” or “didn’t mind,” or “didn’t say no,” because children can’t consent.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of abuse from someone at the Boy Scouts of America, please contact the Goldblatt + Singer in St. Louis at (314) 888-1000
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