Recently, over 200 people have come forward with new sexual abuse allegations against the Boy Scouts of America. The Irving, Texas-based organization is one of the largest youth groups in the country, and has already dealt with numerous charges of abuse over the years. One expert estimates some 7,800 hundred individuals allegedly abused more than 12,000 children.
Cara Kelly, who’s covering the story for USA Today, says the new allegations came about after the Boy Scouts announced in December that it might file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That prompted a group of lawyers to quickly put out a call to find other survivors who wanted to make new allegations against the group before the possible start of a Chapter 11 process.
“They decided to put out … a bit of an ad campaign to see if any victims had not spoken out yet,” Kelly says. “In a few short weeks, they had 200-plus individuals step forward and sign on with them with new allegations.”
She says the lawyers were able to differentiate between new and existing allegations because the Boy Scouts had already been tracking abuse cases for years, and its documents became public records after a previous lawsuit. It had already banned many alleged abusers over the years.
“There are some newer cases,” Kelly says. “But many of them are older and these individuals have just kept these allegations to themselves for many, many years.”
The Boy Scouts tracked abuse allegations against scout masters and others in the organization in its so-called perversion files. Kelly says the organization said the record-keeping was a way to protect scouts, and required everyone in the organization to report incidents of abuse to the police.
Kelly says that in a call with the media Wednesday, the Boy Scouts said it’s still exploring whether it will file for bankruptcy protection. She says some lawyers are criticizing such a move because of how it would “immediately halt” litigation against the group. But Chapter 11 protection would provide some avenues for addressing abuse cases.
“There would be a brief period of time during bankruptcy proceedings that individuals would be able to bring claims under the bankruptcy filing,” Kelly says.
But that process might not be helpful for all survivors, she says, because it would require any documents or records from those proceedings to remain confidential. That means survivors wouldn’t be able to publicly expose alleged perpetrators.
Kelly says the Boy Scouts abuse case is similar to that of other high-profile sexual abuse cases: USA Gymnastics and several American dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church have filed for bankruptcy protection.
Written by Caroline Covington.