Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy
CNN February 18/20
12,000 Boy Scouts were abused over decades
The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy, according to a court document filed in Delaware bankruptcy court early Tuesday.
The youth organization, which celebrated its 110th anniversary February 8, listed liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million and estimated assets of $1 billion to $10 billion.
The bankruptcy filing comes at a time when the organization faces hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits, thousands of alleged abuse victims and dwindling membership numbers. As a result of the filing, all civil litigation against the organization is suspended.
Paul Mones, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing "hundreds of sexual abuse victims in individual lawsuits," called the organization's bankruptcy filing 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 Boy Scouts of America was fielding several hundred sexual abuse lawsuits
The Boy Scouts of America faced hundreds of lawsuits from alleged sexual abuse victims across the country -- all of which are now suspended because of the bankruptcy filing.
Several of the lawsuits allege repeated fondling, exposure to pornography, and forced anal or oral sex. In response, the Boy Scouts of America said at the time 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.
Last April, exposed court testimony showed the organization believed more than 7,800 of its former leaders were involved in sexually abusing more than 12,000 children over the course of 72 years.
Mones, who was part of a legal team that won a $18.5 million verdict against Boy Scouts of America for former Scout and sexual abuse victim Kerry Lewis in 2010, said Monday that instead of potentially having their day in court, alleged victims who had pending lawsuits will now need to file claims in bankruptcy court.
Michael Pfau, a Seattle-based attorney whose firm represents 300 alleged victims across the country, said the bankruptcy claims process will be decidedly different for those suffering due to the Boy Scouts of America's alleged inaction.
"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 in the aftermath of the Lewis case, his law office received hundreds of phone calls from adult males claiming to have been Boy Scouts of America sexual abuse victims, but many states had statutes of limitation that narrowed their legal options at the time. It wasn't until years later, when some state legislators enacted new laws that enabled victims to file lawsuits without limits on when the alleged abuse took place, that a barrage of complaints against the youth organization were filed.
Pfau estimates the number of claimants will eclipse those of the Catholic church.
"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."
BLOGGER'S OBSERVATIONS. I used to wonder about entrenched and socially-revered institutions like the Boy Scouts, its unshakeable foundation now completely demolished simply by the emergence of the truth. The dehumanizing phenomenon of systemic abuse is finally, painfully breaking through, often explosively, and seemingly everywhere. Survivors were isolated, felt they were the only one, dared not speak because they were silenced, and died inside while others went about their way. This is what I call the "oh, surely not/he would never" view, the view of everyday normalcy while hell rages in silence on the other side. I hate to think how prevalent all this is among people who have been too ashamed, frightened or dead by suicide to come forward. Perhaps the fact that men are now beginning to speak means they will be more readily believed, treated with more respect, and won't be so barraged with "but why didn't you report it?" silencing tools, which is what women who have been raped almost universally face.
I remember back in the '90s - and everyone seems to have forgotten all about this, though it nearly destroyed my life - the "False Memory Syndrome Foundation", made up of parents and other authority figures who constantly downplayed the prevalence of child sexual abuse. They actually claimed, and the culture desperately wanted to believe it, that incest and sexual abuse was a fairly rare phenomenon, that there was a sort of "abuse bandwagon", and that therapists "implanted" these terrible notions that people claimed they had endured.
The worst of it was the systematic and ruthless denial that it ever happened, and what we now call "gaslighting" - making the accuser seem "crazy" and delusional. They were usually successful because their victims' lives would be in ruins, and the perpetrators were mostly extremely comfortable, high-status people. They even mentioned it in one of their floods of magazine articles, saying, "We were proud to be such a fine-looking bunch of folks" who "would never" perpetrate such horrors. Survivors were accused of being zombified by abuse propaganda, becoming these harrowing spectres walking around like Stepford wives and bearing poisonous lies, even being coerced into "recanting" and taking it all back. Sometimes, the only way to get your family back was to sacrifice the truth. It was a choice between decapitation and tearing your heart out.
So as bad as I feel about all this, at least this horror is now out of the closet for good - or I hope so. But I believed that it had already happened in the early '90s, though it was all ruthlessly reburied and forgotten about. "False Memory Syndrome" (which doesn't exist, though I believe it forced its way through relentless lobbying into the DSM) was on the cover of EVERY magazine, including Time, Life and Newsweek, but if I bring it up now I get a baffled, "what are you talking about?" look. It's as if it didn't happen at all. Amazing what we do with trauma (i. e. completely forget it ever existed) when we don't want to face it. It doesn't even matter if we have experienced it first-hand or not. It's a cultural numbness which is blessed indeed for those wanting an "out". And amazing, too, how the profound isolation and being treated as crazy and delusional, which so often leads to demolished lives and suicide, seems to last forever.
I found a creepy video which I can't even post here, meant to be an illustration of one of the main tenets of scouting: OBEDIENCE. Now I see that concept as totally poisonous, not just coercive but monstrous. Taking little boys out into the woods and sexually violating them requires automatic submission to authority, a form of grooming and conditioning which paramiltary groups like scouting excel at. Good boys submit, and they don't tell tales, because Scoutmaster John WOULD NEVER do such a thing - and how can you even think of it? Why would such a possibility even come into your mind? What is wrong with you?
Think how shockingly long it took for the truth to come out - and will it recede back into the shadows again, as it has done so many times before?