The Boy Scouts of America is heading into bankruptcy as it faces almost 93,000 claims of sexual abuse, alleging repeated fondling, exposure to pornography, and forced anal or oral sex. Initial claims totaled 82,000 then increased to 92,700 after Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline for submitting claims. At least 12,000 of these claims date back to the late 1940s.
Attorney Andrew Van Ardsale, who communicated with thousands of victims over the past 19 months, told CNN in an email that sex abuse in the BSA was an “unspoken norm” that was “a rite of passage across the country, similar to other tasks where children had to… perform certain duties to earn their coveted merit badges”. Gill Gayle, 58, of Los Angeles says he was abused twice in Alabama in the 1970s and told CNN “there’s no winning a child sexual assault. You don’t ever really recover from this”.
Alleged survivors now have to pursue their claims in bankruptcy court rather than in civil proceedings, which “for a lot of abuse survivors, telling their story in a court of law and forcing the organization to defend their actions can be cathartic,” said Seattle-based attorney Michael Pfau, who represents hundreds of alleged victims. Pfau estimated that the number of claims would outnumber claims against the Catholic Church.
BSA national chairman Jim Turley wrote in an open letter that the bankruptcy filing was done to ensure that the organization can compensate all abuse victims equitably. In an official statement, chairman Turley wrote, “The BSA cannot undo what happened to you, but we are committed to supporting you and to doing everything in our power to prevent it from happening to others. The response we have seen is gut wrenching. We are deeply sorry“.