Documents published in 2012 had revealed how the organization of American scouts had covered for decades many sexual-abuses committed by thousands of volunteer supervisors.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the main scout movement in the United States, announced that they would file for bankruptcy on Tuesday, February 18, weighed down by accusations of sexual abuse that have led to a series of trials. The 110-year-old organization, which has 2.2 million members aged 5 to 21, has chosen the safeguard procedure to be able to continue its activity and create a compensation fund for victims of sexual abuse, according to a statement released Tuesday.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the document filed with the federal bankruptcy court in the state of Delaware estimates the liabilities of the organization between 100 and 500 million dollars. The BSA has not indicated how much they intend to devote to the victim compensation fund which will take the legal form of trust.
A compensation fund for victims
“The BSAs deeply care about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was injured during their period of scouting, writes the organization in the statement. We are outraged that there was a time when individuals took advantage of BSA programs to harm children. “
The leaders of the movement consider that the compensation fund, whose creation will have to be validated by a judge, “is the best way to compensate the victims fairly and while preserving their identity”.
For Michael Pfau, a lawyer who claims to represent around 300 victims, this bankruptcy represents the moment of truth for the BSAs: “In a sense, it is an acknowledgment from the Boy Scouts that they had this huge problem and that it is so important that they cannot take care of it themselves, ” he told the Washington Post.
The lawyer, as well as other representatives of victims, were however worried about the effects that this bankruptcy procedure could have, which limits the time during which new victims could officially testify, as the American newspaper reports.
Over 12,000 victims
Revelations of Boy Scouts of America Sexual Abuse Spilled Out in 2012. Thousands of pages of documents had been published by the Los Angeles Times showing that the American Scout organization had covered many sexual-abuses for decades committed by thousands of volunteer supervisors. About 5,000 “cases of perversion” were then mentioned, corresponding to as many alleged sexual assailants among the Scout leaders.
This information had hitherto been kept secret by the management of the BSAs, which often had not made a report to the authorities. The organization regularly confined itself to removing the alleged culprits.
At the end of January 2019, during a trial in Minnesota, an expert hired by the BSA to compile these “perversion files”, indicating that she had identified 7,819 suspected attackers and 12,254 victims between 1944 and 2016, that is, more than previous estimates.
Legal actions have multiplied against BSAs in recent years, notably thanks to legislative changes in several states which have lengthened the limitation periods for sexual assaults on minors.