Nov 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Nearly 90,000 sex abuse claims filed against Boy Scouts of America

Photo of a camp ranger opening up a gate that has the words "Boy Scouts of America"
Photo: George Frey via Getty

Nearly 90,000 sexual abuse claims were submitted against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) ahead of a Monday deadline in the organization's bankruptcy case.

Why it matters: The number of sex abuse cases is still likely underreported. Paul Mones, a lawyer who has been working on Boy Scouts cases for nearly two decades, told Axios he expects the total number of reported cases to be "closer" to 100,000. He's calling for a congressional inquiry into the scandal.

  • The record number of new claims reveals the unknown scope of abuse.
  • The organization filed for bankruptcy in February after facing a slew of sex abuse reports. Claims had to be submitted by Monday at 5 p.m. ET.
  • Andrew Van Arsdale, one of the lead attorneys, called sex abuse an "unspoken norm" in BSA, per CNN. Claims include reports of forced sex, fondling and exposure to pornography.

For the record: Mones said more people came forward following the BSA's bankruptcy filing.

  • "Most of the people coming forward were not molested by people that the Boy Scouts even acknowledged they knew about, which shows that the problem was much more deeply ingrained in the fabric of the scouts and the scouts for decades and decades," he said.
  • Mones said the scale of abuse was much larger than the cases that emerged involving the Catholic Church in the U.S.

Of note: Mones said the BSA is "unique as a youth organization in that they are congressionally chartered" and he's "amazed that no member Democrat or Republican or independent in the House or the Senate" has mentioned the case.

  • He said Congress should open an investigation into the scandal and called for the charter to be suspended "unless the Boy Scouts of America can give adequate and complete answers as to what they did in the past, and what they do in the future."
  • Representatives of congressional leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not immediately return Axios' request for comment.

Background: After BSA lost a sex abuse verdict in 2010, the organization was forced to release more than 20,000 confidential documents, later known as the "perversion files."

  • The documents showed that the organization tracked suspected and known abusers but failed to report many of them to the police. Lawyers say the perversion files did not document every abuser — many remain unknown.
  • At its height, the Boy Scouts had more than four million members. Now, they number less than two million.
  • BSA has apologized and launched a nationwide ad campaign in August to notify survivors they had until Nov. 16 to file claims.

What they’re saying: "We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who came forward," the BSA said in an emailed statement to Axios.

  • "The response we have seen from survivors has been gut-wrenching. We are deeply sorry."

What's next: A compensation fund will eventually be created to pay out settlements to abuse survivors whose claims are upheld.

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