On the surface, the Boy Scouts of America seemed like an outstanding youth program that focused on teaching young boys and adolescents diverse skills and developing their work ethic to achieve their goals and dreams. Unfortunately, this organization is now facing allegations that instead of protecting children and helping them reach their full potential, some scout leaders were systematically abusing children, causing them unspeakable pain and trauma.
However, the problem for many young boys and their parents is that these allegations are nothing new. News reports suggest that claims of abuse date back to 1905. The number of cases climbed between the 1960s and 1990s, with more than 2,839 reports of alleged abuse in 1970 alone.
Sex abuse allegations against the organization go back decades, and yet, most people have only recently become aware of the true scope of the problem. Why? In part because new laws have been passed that aim to give silent sex abuse victims their right to speak up and have their day in court.
In 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation dubbed the Child Victims Act. This monumental piece of legislation opened up the path to justice for child sex abuse survivors to pursue legal action against the perpetrators of sexual misconduct and hold them accountable for their actions. The act itself increased the amount of time that victims have to pursue a lawsuit against the alleged perpetrators of child sex crimes in New York. It also allows victims of sex crimes to seek civil remedies for their abuse at any time, as long as they pursue legal action before they reach the age of 55.
The act was passed in 2019 and then was extended, partially because of the toll the COVID-19 epidemic was taking on the state of New York. Courts were closed, and the public health emergency meant that while the statute of limitations clock was ticking, abuse victims could not pursue legal action or move their cases forward in any meaningful way. The Child Victims Abuse Act gave those survivors the extra time they needed to pursue legal action without worrying that the COVID-19 pandemic would slow their progress down in their path towards justice.
In the years and months leading up to the signing of the new legislation, the Boy Scouts of American had been embroiled with sex abuse allegations and costly lawsuits over their handling of sex abuse claims. By 2018 the organization’s insurance companies started refusing to pay out damages associated with the claims. The financial strain was too much, and by February of 2020, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware. Under the Chapter 11 filing, the organization would be forced to reorganize and set up a victim’s compensation fund. Victims were offered one last opportunity to file an abuse claim against the organization. These final filings were given a November 16, 2020, deadline. News reports indicate that before the November 16 deadline, at least 92,700 people had filed sex abuse claims against the organization.
As part of their Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, BSA would establish a victim’s compensation fund that the organization claimed would provide “equitable compensation to all victims,” but to some sexual abuse survivors, this fund seems to be a maneuver that allows the organization to skirt the justice process by not allowing victims their day in court.
By filing for bankruptcy, BSA can put all their previous lawsuits on hold as the process plays out. While the bankruptcy proceedings impact tens of thousands of potential victims, the new extended statute of limitation laws enacted by states like New York and California are keeping a window of opportunity open to abuse survivors.
The Child Victims Act allows survivors of sexual abuse to pursue legal actions against local Boy Scout councils and chapters, even though the organization as a whole is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. This gives victims a chance to pursue some measure of justice for the atrocities that they may have endured at the hands of BSA’s leaders and mentors. For victims in New York, the BSA bankruptcy filing doesn’t have to mean giving up on their chance at holding the Boy Scouts organization accountable for the actions, or lack thereof, of its staff members and leadership.
The COVID-19 shut-down may have been the catalyst, but the cases that are coming to light in the aftermath of the Child Victims Act demonstrate that this piece of legislation may have been overdue. Sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating, and there is no timetable for healing. Coming forward with sexual abuse allegations is difficult and painful, often bringing up horrific childhood memories that a victim may have spent years trying to bury. It wasn’t that long ago that people took to heart the adage “a child should be seen and not heard.” Children deserve to be heard, and abused children deserve justice, even if they are currently adults.
It takes courage to confront the past. The law now allows abuse victims to share their stories. It also allows victims to use the legal system to gain some sense of justice and hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions.
The Child Victims Act timetable has been extended again. Victims now have until August 14, 2021, to file a legal claim. If you suffered sexual abuse as a child or if your child has been the victim of abuse, you can still file a lawsuit. It may be difficult to come forward with abuse allegations, but there are people ready and willing to listen to your story and help you fight back.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we have compassionate attorneys standing by, ready to listen to you. Our attorneys can be a supportive shoulder to lean on and can use their legal experience to pursue justice for you and your family. You don’t have to remain silent, quietly suffering the burden of your situation. You can come forward to pursue the justice and compensation you deserve.
If you feel ready to talk, we stand ready to listen. Contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney with Hach & Rose, LLP today at (212) 779-0057 for more information about how we may be able to help you pursue legal action under New York’s Child Victims Act.
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