The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy in Delaware bankruptcy court on Tuesday. With $50,000 or less in its assets, the organization completing its 110th anniversary on Feb 8 has registered liabilities between USD 100m and 500m. The decision came at a time when the youth organization is fielding hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits, thousands of alleged abuse victims and reducing membership count. The filing for now has suspended the civil litigation against the national institution.
Representing victims of sexual abuse victims in the court, Paul Mones, the lawyer of the victims, considers the BSA bankruptcy file as a tragedy. “These young boys took an oath. They pledged to be obedient, pledged to support the Scouts and pledged to be honorable. Many of them are extremely angry that that’s not what happened to them and the Boy Scouts of America did not step up in the way they should have,” Mones said.
The organization was under enormous pressure as it was sued by hundreds who have been subjected to sexual abuse during scouting – the cases are now dismissed in the wake of bankruptcy filing as revealed by a court document.
A number of lawsuits suggest repeated fondling and groping of the victims, exposure to pornography and forced anal or oral penetration of the children. In response, the organization said that they “care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.” They added that they were “outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our program to abuse innocent children.”
“We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice and we encourage them to come forward. It is the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement,” the organization said.
In the April of past year, a court testimony revealed that more than 7,800 of BSA staffs actively abused more than 12,000 children in almost three quarters of the century – 72 years.
Mones, a Los Angeles-based Attorney who was also part of the legal team that won USD 18.5m verdict against the organization for a former sexual abuse victim Kerry Lewis in the beginning of last decade, said that instead of getting justice from the regular the victims and claimants will now have to march to the bankruptcy court to proceed their case.
Michael Pfau, a Seattle-based attorney whose firm represent 300 alleged victims across the country, stated that bankruptcy claims process will be definitely different for the appellants due to the inaction of the organization.
“They won’t have to give depositions involving their life history. Their lives won’t be scrutinized, but 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,” Pfau said.
Mones said following the Kerry Lewis case success in 2010, his firm received hundreds of phone calls from adult males claiming to have been victims of sexual abuse during their time with BSA but many states had statutes of limitation that forced them to limit their litigation of the organization. The situation finally changed when some state lawmakers joined heads to draft new legislations to enable and encourage them to come forward without considering the limits about the timeline of alleged abuse thus opening the floodgate to thousands of lawsuits.
Pfau posits that the number of claimants will surmount those of Catholic church abuse victims.
“The Catholic bankruptcies are limited in geographic scope. Here there will be claimants from all 50 states and the American territories,” Pfau said. “We can talk about files and numbers, but in reality, if you step back and realize the scope of the human carnage, it’s stunning.”
Second BSA Chapter
Reports of the bankruptcy filing surfaced as early as Dec 2018, when The Wall Street Journal reported the Youth organization had contacted and then hired the law firm Sidley Austin LLP for assistance for the filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy but no official filing was recorded until this Monday.
In the 14 months since then, BSA has made a switch to enroll the girl scouts, a controversial move that attracted criticism from Girl Scouts of the USA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan who saw the BSA’s change of rules as a way to raise their dwindling enrollment.
The organization in Aug last year referred about 120 cases of abuse by Scout leaders to law enforcement for further investigation, saying it believes those who came forward and is working to identify additional alleged perpetrators.
A former scout himself, Roger Mobsy took charge as new President of the Boy Scouts of America and vowed to redeem the image of ill-reputed organization and move it forward.
Last week, BSA entered a partnership with 1in6, a leading organization that gives confidential support to the Boys & Men who have suffered sexual abuse in their lives.
“We sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed in Scouting,” BSA CEO and President Roger Mosby said in announcing the partnership. “In addition to implementing strong policies to prevent abuse, we are dedicated to supporting victims when and how they need it.”
With all the efforts in place, the Boy Scouts of America has still come short of providing justice and assistance to the sexual abuse victims under its watch particularly after the swirling of its bankruptcy episode.
“We need to make sure we receive some accountability and if (bankruptcy court) is how we have to do it, then so be it.” Pfau said.