Boy Scouts Hoping To Earn 'Paying Restitution To Sex Abuse Victims' Merit Badge
Calling someone a "boy scout" has long been synonymous with calling them a goody-goody, but the Boy Scouts of America organization itself? Not so great! It took them God knows how long to allow Scouts to come out of the closet and remain a part of their organization, and two years longer than that to allow troop leaders to be gay. And while they're now admitting trans Scouts and even girls, they're still not allowing atheists. Apparently not believing in God somehow affects one's ability to tie fancy knots.
Also, they've had a bit of a problem with sexual abuse over the years. In fact, they are now mortgaging several properties and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to pay restitution to the victims.
The BSA states that it is just the national umbrella organization that is filing for bankruptcy, and that individual troops will be unaffected.
According to a spokesman for the BSA, the bankruptcy has "two key objectives: equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and continue carrying out its mission for years to come. The BSA intends to use the Chapter 11 process to create a Victims Compensation Trust that would provide equitable compensation to victims."
Though really, how can you even quantify something like that?
Some say you can't. Victims and attorneys have come forward to say that this is less about adequately compensating victims and more about the BSA maintaining its reputation by not allowing victims the chance to testify in court.
"This bankruptcy is not about finances," said Scott Coats, who sued in New York last month over abuse he claimed to have suffered in the 1970s. "This bankruptcy is about the reputation of the Boy Scouts of America and about silencing victims and keeping the truth away from the eyes of the public."
Seattle-based attorney Mike Pfau, who is representing more than 300 victims nationwide, also thinks that the BSA is not being honest about all of its assets and wants to go after the organization's property holdings as well. Another attorney representing abuse victims agrees:
"There are a lot of very angry, resentful men out there who will not allow the Boy Scouts to get away without saying what all their assets are," said lawyer Paul Mones, who represents numerous clients suing the Boy Scouts. "They want no stone unturned."
The vast majority of these lawsuits come from former Scouts who say they were sexually abused during the 1960s, '70s and '80s, and the BSA says that it long ago implemented policies meant to keep such things from happening. However, right up until last spring, they were still trying to bullshit people about it:
Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts have kept confidential files since the 1920s listing staff and volunteers implicated in sexual abuse, for the avowed purpose of keeping predators away from youth. According to a court deposition, the files as of January listed 7,819 suspected abusers and 12,254 victims.
Until last spring, the organization had insisted it never knowingly allowed a predator to work with youths. But in May, The Associated Press reported that attorneys for abuse victims had identified multiple cases in which known predators were allowed to return to leadership posts. The next day, Boy Scouts chief executive Mike Surbaugh wrote to a congressional committee, acknowledging the group's previous claim was untrue.
7,819 suspected abusers. Really. Didn't occur to any of them, over that many decades, to maybe call the police on some of these people?
It's good that these victims will be getting some amount of restitution, and hopefully they will get more, but given the BSA's historic lack of care when it comes to these victims, and the harm they have caused Scouts in other ways, perhaps it is time to throw the baby out with the bathwater and allow other, less historically sketchy scouting programs to take over.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse