Almost 100,000 victims of sexual abuse that took place in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) had come forward by Monday evening, the deadline to receive compensation from the organization, a lawyer for the victims told AFP.
“As of today, 95,000 claims have been filed,” attorney Paul Moses told AFP.
The figure, revealing the scale of alleged abuse committed over decades by scout leaders, dwarfs the roughly 11,000 complaints believed to have been filed in recent years against the Catholic Church.
“It’s by far the largest sexual abuse scandal in the US,” Moses said, adding that scouting has long offered a “perfect petri dish” for pedophiles: “boys have taken an oath of loyalty, they are away from their parents, in the wilderness.”
“We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward,” the scouting organization said in a statement.
“We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain.
“We intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation. The response we have seen from survivors has been gut-wrenching. We are deeply sorry,” the BSA added.
The group, founded in 1910, has 2.2 million members between the ages of five and 21.
– ‘Perversion files’ –
Rocked by accusations of sexual abuse, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in February in an effort to block settlement claims from hitting the organization directly and instead funneled them to a compensation fund.
The group, which is valued at more than $1 billion, has not said how much they intend to spend via this fund.
Revelations of misconduct in US scouting circles came to widespread attention in 2012 when the Los Angeles Times published internal documents spelling out details of decades of sexual abuse.
Some 5,000 “perversion files” were uncovered, identifying about as many alleged culprits among scout leadership, including scout masters and troop leaders.
Most incidents were never reported to authorities, and the BSA took it upon themselves to remove the accused offenders.
Negotiations will now begin between victims, the BSA and their insurers to determine the amounts to be paid.
BSA “will have to sell some of their properties,” Moses said, adding it was a “very complicated” process that could last one or two years.
Moses in 2010 won $20 million for a former Boy Scout abused by his leader.
Multiple cases have been filed against the BSA since 2012, especially after several states extended the statute of limitations on allegations of child sexual assault.
– ‘Multiple failures across many years’ –
And US Catholic Church leadership, also roiled by child sexual abuse claims, is set to meet virtually for its annual conference Monday.
The agenda has been updated to include discussion on a damning Vatican report released last week on defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the silence of many of his peers.
The 450-page document details several incidents in which young priests or seminarians reported allegations of abuse by McCarrick but investigations were never opened.
“It will take time to process the many lessons found in the hundreds of pages of footnotes… the tragic outcome was not the result of a single failure, but rather resulted from multiple failures across many years,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who will be presiding over the conference.
“These failures were fed by the deeper roots of our culture of clericalism,” he said, adding that “individually and collectively, we apologise for the trauma caused by those who commit abuse.”