Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is facing a higher-than-expected number of sexual abuse claims from former members. The mounting claims could have major implications for BSA’s future, from the organization’s redress to abuse survivors to the question of its continued existence.
The organization has faced considerable tumult in recent years as abuse allegations—many of them decades old—have come to light. Similar to the rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, mostly at the hands of priests, BSA has been implicated in systemic sexual abuse of members, most of it committed by troop leaders.
Files released by BSA in 2012 documented 1,200 sexual abuse allegations from 1965 to 1985. Now, it appears that the actual number of sexual abuse incidents in the organization’s history is much higher.
In February, BSA sought bankruptcy protection. The organization’s financial situation has taken a turn for the worst over the past 10 years as it has faced new sexual abuse lawsuits brought by former members. When BSA filed for bankruptcy, a spokesperson for the organization stated that there were “two key objectives” for the Chapter 11 filing. The first of those objectives was to “equitably compensate” victims who were harmed by troop leaders or others involved in the scouting program. The second was finding a path forward for BSA so that the organization could continue to exist.
As part of the bankruptcy process—and to ensure that the first objective is achievable—the bankruptcy court set a November 16, 2020 deadline for past BSA members to come forward and submit any relevant abuse claims. This record of claims will help the bankruptcy court and BSA create a compensation fund to pay settlements to abuse survivors.
Based on a report from NBC News, 88,500 claims have been filed against BSA as part of the bankruptcy process—a number far higher than expected, according to the lawyers charged with signing up claimants. BSA has issued a statement saying that it is “devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting.”
Most of the claims against the organization date to the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, which NBC News notes was before BSA started requiring criminal background checks for its troop leaders. The documents released by BSA in 2012 revealed, among other things, that the organization had failed to prevent repeat offenders from jumping from troop to troop or finding other ways to continue abusing Boy Scout members.
At Blinkx, we help a wide range of organizations—from nonprofits and volunteer organizations to religious entities to youth sports organizations—to design and execute effective policies for criminal background checks. BSA shows how far-reaching the implications can be when youth-serving organizations fail to conduct proper background checks. Contact us for help making sure that your organization is prepared to offer a safe environment for all.