The original Boy Scouts movement began in 1908 in England. In 1909, Chicago publisher William Boyce was in London and got lost in the fog. A Boy Scout came to his aid, guiding him to his destination. This anonymous gesture inspired Boyce to bring the organization to the United States. The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated on February 8, 1910, spreading across the country.
The movement hit a peak in 1972, with as many as six million Boy Scout members scattered across the country. Many of these families had no idea what was going on right under their noses. It would take many years before the truth would be forced out into the open, requiring the Boy Scouts of America to answer for what they thought could be kept hidden.
THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA WERE AWARE OF THE PROBLEM
Over the last several decades, hundreds of sexual abuse cases have been brought against the Boy Scouts of America. In 2010, a judge ordered that the organization release files kept internally of men who had been accused of preying on boys.
These files labeled the “P Files” within the Boy Scouts of America’s headquarters, would be known to the United States as the “Perversion Files.” The Boy Scouts of America hired a child abuse expert to examine the files in January of 2019. The files uncovered 12,254 boys had reported sexual abuse at the hands of at least 7,800 suspected perpetrators between 1944 and 2016.
Academics in the area of child abuse believe this number is not a true reflection of those sexually abused or assaulted at the hands of the organization. Due to the likely intimidation or feelings of shame boys felt, they likely never came forward.
WHY ARE VICTIMS BEGINNING TO COME FORWARD?
Victims who have suffered from sexual assault or abuse are often too ashamed or feel like it was their fault. The statistic is that one in six men has been sexually assaulted. Despite the information made available in the “Perversion Files,” it is likely that the actual number of sexual assault victims will never be known.
In the spotlight of the Boy Scouts of America’s bankruptcy, victims are feeling their opportunity to speak up and receive justice slipping away. Many of these victims have hidden their secret for decades, too afraid of being judged harshly for what happened.
Most of the victims don’t tell, especially right after an instance occurs. The reasons often include:
- Shame – Feeling like they are responsible in some way for the sexual assault. They may have even been told by the assailant that they brought it on themselves.
- Low self-esteem – Child predators often prey on those who are vulnerable. Low self-esteem and vulnerability often go hand-in-hand.
- Fear – Victims often feel like no one will believe them if they come forward, especially with the lack of physical evidence. Higher ranking officials in an organization can also be intimidating to a victim.
- Avoidance – To preserve themselves, victims will often turn to avoidance as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, some of these victims develop more problems later in their life.
The most common effects that victims experience after sexual assault include:
- Severe mental health problems
- Underachieving in their job or school
- Inadequate relationships (many victims cite multiple marriages because of the assault)
- Thoughts of suicide or previous attempts
WHAT DOES BANKRUPTCY SOLVE?
In February 2020, the Boy Scouts of America filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In the informational brief filed on February 18, 2020, the Boy Scouts of America stated that they could not continue to address abuse litigation within the tort system on a case-by-case level. They have already spent over $150 million in settlement and legal fee amounts from 2017 through 2019.
The bankruptcy filed by the Boy Scouts of America places a stop on independent lawsuits filed against them for civil matters like the sexual assault allegations. The original window that the Boy Scouts of America proposed for a filing deadline was 80 days. The U.S. Bankruptcy Judge presiding over the case and the Boy Scouts of America agreed on the deadline for survivors to come forward and file a claim by 5 p.m. on November 16, 2020.
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA RESTRUCTURING
Part of the bankruptcy and the Boy Scouts of America’s restructuring is to create a trust for those survivors of the sexual abuse lawsuits. Through the restructuring website, they express their commitments to restructuring. However, the organization was granted an extension of 120 days to file and solicit its reorganization plan.
The Boy Scouts of America are following in the footsteps of the Catholic Church, whose diocese filed bankruptcy in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals. Now lawyers across the country, including the nationally reputable law firm, TorkLaw, are taking clients and providing free consultations on their Boy Scouts of America sexual abuse lawsuits.
Claims can be filed online or through the mail. Each claim requires victims to tell as much as they can about the incident, which can be difficult for some. The claims paperwork asks you the following type of information:
- The name of the person who sexually assaulted you
- History as a member of the Boy Scouts of America
- The events that took place during the assault
- Description of the harm suffered by the assault
- Your general history, including but not limited to education and employment
You don’t have to remember every detail to file a claim. However, it is helpful to fill it out as completely as possible.
The Confidentiality and Protective Order (docket 799) and the Motion to File Under Sealed Status (docket 967) have already been signed into effect. These motions will keep various aspects of the case out of public knowledge, with redactions being done in place of the confidential information. Unfortunately, this also means that the perpetrators will not be publicly identified for the crimes of sexual assault.
CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY BILL 218
The California Assembly Bill 218 was signed in October 2019, putting it into effect on January 1, 2020. AB218 extends the statute of limitations in California for those who experience sexual assault as a child. This law extends the cut-off age for reporting childhood sexual abuse from 26 to 40 years of age.
Asm. Lorena Gonzales (D-CA) authored the bill to amend the Code of Civil Procedures (sections 340.1 and 1002) and the Government Code (section 905) for childhood sexual assault. When Governor Newsome signed AB218 into law, it replaced its predecessor SB1779, which was an eight-year statute of limitations for childhood sexual assault cases.
In addition to the extended timeline for reporting childhood sexual assault, AB218 also changes how cover-up scenarios are dealt with. If proven, cases involving a cover-up of the assault can require the defendant to pay three times the actual figured damages of the plaintiff.
An extra three year period has been adopted into the bill, allowing those who may not have been eligible under SB1779, but missed eligibility within three years of AB218. The new law allows for those survivors to come forward, despite many years passing.
WHAT IF I MISS THE NOVEMBER 16, 2020 DEADLINE?
If you are a survivor of sexual assault that occurred from your time in the Boy Scouts of America and you want to file a claim, missing the deadline is not an option. Missing the 5 p.m. deadline on November 16, 2020, will disqualify you from ever being able to recover compensation for the assault you suffered.
Anyone who was sexually assaulted during their time with the Boy Scouts of America is encouraged to file a claim. The claims process is not limited to scout leaders, but also other scouts, assistant troop leaders, volunteers, and employees of camps.
Furthermore, the lawsuit is not just limited to Boy Scouts of America, but also their other affiliated groups. These groups include Explorers, Venturing, and Sea Scouts. All are welcome to file their claims and let their voices be heard.
DO I NEED LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO FILE A CLAIM?
You don’t have to seek legal counsel to file a claim against the Boy Scouts of America, but it is highly recommended that you do so. Lawyers handling these cases are on your side, helping to get you the justice you need and deserve.
Right now, finding a legal representative that will hear your story and consult with you for free will help you decide your next steps. Most lawyers who are taking clients for the Boy Scouts of America case are doing so on a contingency fee basis. This means that if you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid.
TorkLaw is currently offering free consultations for survivors of sexual assault that was a result of being in the Boy Scouts of America. If you want to find out more information, call the legal office to speak with a representative about your case.