Boy Scout Sexual Abuse
The Boy Scouts is an organization so all-American that it was actually chartered by Congress. Parents—many with fond memories of their own scouting days—send their sons off to have some good, wholesome fun while learning values, cooperation, and life skills. Tragically, scouting takes a dark turn for many boys and young men.
Between 1965 and 1985 alone, more than 1,200 volunteers are believed to have been expelled from the Boy Scouts of America in response to allegations of sexual abuse. The number of abusers and perpetrators in the 30+ years since is unknown, as the organization carefully guards that information. Past victims and sexual abuse prevention organizations alike have called for public release of this data, arguing that keeping abuse in the dark puts current and future generations of Boy Scouts at risk. But, the information is not forthcoming.
Opportunities for Abuse in Scouting
Adults who hold positions of authority over children and whose professions or volunteer activities bring them into frequent contact with children have a greater opportunity than most to molest children. That’s why we frequently hear about abuse by teachers, coaches, priests, rabbis, and others who should be pillars of their communities.
Boy Scout troop leaders and other volunteers may have even greater access. Cub Scouts are the youngest Boy Scouts. The Cub Scout unit that meets regularly, known as a “den,” consists of only 6-8 boys. These meetings take place in a variety of locations, including public meeting rooms, parks, school cafeterias, church halls and more. However, the Boy Scouts of America’s website says that the idea meeting place for the den is the home of an adult leader.
In addition to these small meetings in sometimes intimate locations, scouts regularly participate in activities such as hiking and camping, putting the small group in the care of one or more scout leaders in isolated settings, sometimes overnight.
The Boy Scout-Leader Relationship
Because of the small size of the groups and the type of activities Boy Scouts regularly engage in, it is natural for boys to develop a closer, more personal and trusting relationship with scout leaders than they may with other adults they come in contact with. This relationship can be very positive when leaders and youth volunteers take their responsibilities seriously and act as guides and role models to the boys, the closer relationship and informal settings also makes boys and young men more vulnerable to predators wearing the uniform.
Responsibility for Sexual Abuse in Boy Scout Troops
Of course, the abuser bears primary responsibility for the abuse. However, within an organization like the Boy Scouts, a larger-scale failure is often necessary for the abuse to take place, especially if it is ongoing. Depending on the circumstances, the local, regional, or even national organization may bear some legal responsibility for the harm done to the scout. For example, if organizational leadership had reason to know that a particular leader, older scout or other party involved in the organization was a threat and failed to act, the organization may be liable to the victim. Liability may also arise if the organization failed to properly screen, train, or supervise leaders and other volunteers in a way that would have minimized the risk to the victim, or to put protective policies in place
Time Limits for Filing Boy Scout Sexual Abuse Claims
If parents become aware of sexual abuse while the abuse is going on or soon thereafter, pursuing compensation right away can be in the victim’s best interest. In addition to providing the resources necessary for the victim to receive therapy and other necessary treatment, a favorable legal resolution can help restore the child’s sense of justice and security in the world.
However, there are many reasons litigation may not be possible at or near the time of the abuse. Children who are sexually abused are often intimidated into silence, or keep quiet out of loyalty to a trusted abuser. As time passes, many children who have not spoken out in the moment block out the memory of the abuse, and it may be years before the victim remembers what happened to him.
To protect victims who were unable to speak up on their own behalves and who may have repressed sexual abuse memories, the Pennsylvania legislature has extended the statute of limitations in childhood sexual abuse cases. A victim who was under the age of 18 at the time of the abuse may pursue a legal claim for up to 12 years from his 18th birthday.
Talk to a Sexual Abuse Lawyer
If your child has been sexually abused or you are an adult under the age of 30 who was abused as a child, we can help. Schedule your free consultation right now and take the first step toward fighting back.