Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday as the organization faces financial woes amid mounting sexual abuse allegation lawsuits. While representatives from BSA have claimed this decision was made with the victims’ interest in mind, critics are weary this move may threaten public safety.
Recent legal amendments have made it possible for more alleged sex abuse victims to file lawsuits against BSA, as 38 states have amended the statutes of limitations for laws pertaining to childhood sexual abuse claims over the past two decades. 16 of these states have extended the window of time that victims could file lawsuits against their alleged abusers and 10 have banned such statues completely.
Such amendments have contributed to the hundreds, or potentially thousands, of new sexual abuse allegations filed against BSA in the past few years, as court filings demonstrate that BSA currently faces at least 275 sexual abuse lawsuits and over 1,000 additional claims.
Documents presented in court also reflect that BSA failed to address sexual abuse occurring within the organization despite knowledge about alleged assailants’ identities. BSA maintained a list of names of over 1,000 volunteers who were banned from volunteering due to alleged abuse but failed to report these names to authorities.
Representatives from BSA have claimed their decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday was made with the alleged sex abuse victims in mind.
“Boy Scouts of America has initiated a voluntary financial restructuring to ensure we can equitably compensate all victims of past abuse in our programs, through a proposed Victim’s Compensation Trust,” wrote BSA’s National Chair Jim Turley in an Open Letter to Victims today. “I want you to know that we believe you, we believe in compensating you.”
BSA has also recently teamed up with 1in6, a nonprofit working to support male sexual abuse survivors, as local BSA chapters plan to implement counseling for current and previous members.
“We are encouraged by the barriers to abuse that the Boy Scouts of America has implemented to protect youth moving forward and the important measures the organization is taking to aid survivors of abuse,” said Matthew Ennis, the CEO of 1in6, when asked about the decision to partner with Boy Scouts of America.
Though many legal experts and critics have voiced skepticism over BSA’s decision to file for bankruptcy, as this filing has suspended hundreds of the sexual abuse claims recently filed.
“They lose their right to a jury trial. For a lot of abuse survivors, telling their story in a court of law and forcing the organizations to defend their actions can be cathartic. That won’t happen with a bankruptcy,” said Michael Pfau, an attorney defending several of BSA’s alleged sexual abuse victims, in a statement to CNN.
Similar sentiments were also voiced by attorney Tim Kosnoff, who has defended multiple alleged child sex abuse victims against BSA. “They’re going into bankruptcy not because they don’t have the money. They’re going into bankruptcy to hide ... a Mount Everest in dirty secrets,” said Kosnoff.
While bankruptcy saved other institutions amid flurries of sex abuse scandals, including several dioceses of the Catholic Church, it is uncertain whether or not this move will save BSA, especially because allegations against BSA are being filed at the national level, whereas victims who suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church filed lawsuits against individual dioceses.
“A Boy Scout bankruptcy would be bigger in scale than any other child abuse bankruptcy we’ve ever seen," said Pfau.