The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that it would review more than 50 years of confidential files on alleged sexual predators. The organization has also said that it will inform law enforcement of any cases it previously did not disclose.
In an unprecedented move, the review will look over around 5,000 cases dating back to the 1950s. Attorneys representing hundreds of Boy Scouts are quick to note that this case isn’t historical. The review will also include current allegations against Scout employees, volunteers and other associated with the organization who were expelled from the organization.
Accusers from 33 states are as old as 75 to as young as 15, and allegations span from 1953 to 2018.
Alleged crimes range from showing lewd photos to molestation.
Why are accusers coming forward now?
It is important to note that males are far less likely to disclose sexual abuse than females are. For this reason, the amount of male victims sexual abuse is considered grossly underestimated. In 2012, thousands of BSA’s own records detailing sexual abuse and misconduct allegations emerged. These records spurred a rash of litigation against the 108-year-old organization. Executives, at the time, said the files were known as “ineligible volunteer files” protected kids by weeding out those who shouldn’t have been allowed to work with them. The organization says that those who violated or were suspected of violating were added to file and banned from the Boy Scouts.
Between 1946 and 2016, there were 12,254 victims and 7,9210 perpetrators were identified in the “ineligible volunteer” files.
However, the abused and their attorneys say that these files reveal a massive cover-up. They say that these files show just how the organization endangered other children by prioritizing the organization’s image and financial interests over the wellbeing of Scouts.
Thousands of incidents, hundreds of claims
In December 2018, reports surfaced that the Boy Scouts of America were considering filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Attorneys were moved to act because a Chapter 11 bankruptcy can significantly narrow the window for accusers to file a claim and will force those claims to remain confidential.
Several of the lawsuits against BSA were not cases detailed in the “ineligible volunteer” files. Many of these cases are decades old. However, attorneys aren’t surprised to find that many of these secrets have been kept well into adulthood. It is extremely common for victims of abuse to keep quiet about what happened to them. Victims may hide their trauma for decades for the following reasons:
Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused. By nature, sexual abuse is extremely humiliating and dehumanizing. Victims feel invalidated or defiled while feeling at the mercy of another person. Victims may blame themselves for the misconduct of their perpetrator.
Victims of sexual abuse have a tendency to blame themselves. Many victims refuse to believe that such treatment was actually abusive and was totally normal. Further, they may deny and downplay how much the abuse actually affected them. In other cases, the abuse they endured may seem small compared to what others have gone through. But its important that survivors remember, it is never their fault.
A huge obstacle victims have to overcome is the fear of consequences. The following are examples of the types of fears sexual abuse internalize:
- Being labeled a troublemaker
- Being the cause of a beloved figure getting in trouble
- Social repercussions from peers
- Won’t be believed
- Concern for their and their loved ones’ physical safety
- Losing credibility
Abusers are often in positions of power and in respected positions, such as Scout leadership. In many of these cases, sexual abusers threaten the lives of their victims. In others, they threaten to withhold accolades and accomplishments, such as earning a badge in the Boy Scouts.
While abusers will prey on anyone they set their sights on, those most vulnerable to abuse are adolescents with low self-esteem. Children who need a little extra attention or affection are most vulnerable to child sexual abuse. These children are often seeking friendship and reassurance. An abuser will take notice of this and use it to their advantage. Additionally, sexual abuse can further devalue a child’s self-worth and keep a child from reporting for two reasons:
- Sexual abuse rids a person of their worth and self-esteem. Small acts of disrespect, objectification and shaming chip away at a victim’s self-esteem.
- Victims with low self-esteem don’t value or respect their bodies and integrity. So when they are abused, they tend to downplay it.
Children are most vulnerable to child sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Additionally, 75% of child sexual abuse victims are victimized by people they know well. Abusers are often master manipulators. In what is called grooming, abusers work to gain the trust of a child and their parents before they even begin the sexual abuse.
Child victims of sexual abuse may also fail to report their abuse because they simply don’t want to relive their experiences. For some, it may easier to dissociate themselves from what happened in their child to escape their pain.
Lack of Information
Many parents don’t think that sexual abuse can happen to their children. Because of this, they may not talk to their children about what to do in the event sexual abuse occurs. In the event a child experiences sexual abuse, they may not understand that what is happening to them is wrong.
History of sexual abuse
It’s sad to say, but some victims of child abuse who have been victims of abuse before. Those who have been traumatized by sexual abuse, mental abuse or physical abuse are at a higher risk of being of sexually assaulted or abused again.
Effects of Sexual Abuse on Men and Boys
Male sexual abuse survivors are often overlooked when it comes to sexual assault discussions. In fact, very often men are ridiculed for sharing their stories. However, at least 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted.
Men and boys react to sexual assault and sexual abuse the same as other survivors. However, they may face other challenges that are unique to their experience. Men who survive sexual assault feel shame or self-doubt. Often, men feel that they should’ve been strong enough to fight off the perpetrator. Additionally, when boys experiencing assault from another male ejaculate during the assault, they may be confused and left wondering what this means about their sexuality and sexual orientation. It is important that survivors of abuse understand that this does not mean that a victim wanted, invited or enjoyed the assault.
Boys who have experienced sexual abuse are at a higher risk for serious mental health problems, including the following:
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Problems in intimate relationships
- Underachievement at school
Perpetrators who sexually abuse men and boys can be of any gender identity, sexual orientation or age. In many cases, perpetrators have an established relationship with their victims. Abusers can use physical force or psychological and emotional manipulation tactics.
Scouts BSA vs. Insurance Providers
In addition to battling sexual abuse allegations, the Scouts are also in court with their insurers. Insurance companies argue that they shouldn’t have pay claims related to sexual abuse that the organization could have reasonably prevented. The Scouts filed a lawsuit against Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co. and First State Insurance Co. in Texas for $13.5 million last June after the insurers argued that BSA’s own records indicated that the organization hadn’t done enough to warn parents or protect kids from sexual abuse. The Scouts, however, contend that they did not knowingly allow a sexual predator to work with youth.
Why is bankruptcy a shield from sexual abuse lawsuits?
A chapter 11 bankruptcy grants businesses an automatic stay. This means that bankruptcy protects a company from pending litigation as well as creditors pursuing collections or civil legal actions against a business. Collections of judgments cannot proceed during the stay. Creditors can’t take action against the filer without permission from the bankruptcy court judge.
Bankruptcy is a common tactic institutions use once sexual abuse allegations emerge. It is a tactic that several Archdioceses have used to stop or limit sexual abuse lawsuits. By declaring bankruptcy, organizations can stall, stop or severely limit sexual abuse claims after the bar date. Sometimes, the bankruptcy process can take several years and discourage survivors from filing a lawsuit. However, this lengthened process allows defendants to avoid public scrutiny typical in U.S. courts.
Despite declining enrollment, the Scouts still boast a membership of about 2 million. However, the organization is currently dealing with declining enrollment numbers, dealing with lawsuits on multiple fronts and have paid the law firm representing them against these sexual abuse allegations more than $11 million.
The Carlson Law Firm is here to help
Thousands of boys have suffered abuse because of the Boy Scouts organization’s failure to protect members from abuse. In the organization 108-year history, the ineligible volunteer files only date back to the 1940s. There is no telling how many assaults there were prior to the first file submission. Further, many of these victims will not get the retribution they deserve, nor will they get to tell their stories. The Boy Scouts failed in keeping sexual abuse among its ranks confidential. Many parents may have opted not to put their children in the organization or may have known to keep a closer eye on signs of sexual abuse or assault.
Sexual assault and abuse can take its toll on a person’s well being. However, you are not alone. The Carlson Law Firm is ready to guide you through the legal step it takes to being rebuilding your life after sexual abuse. Our compassionate, hard-hitting legal team will advocate for you to get you started in your recovery. Our firm has the knowledge and a team of attorneys with the knowledge, skill, and passion to ensure you get justice.
Contact us today. We care. We can help.