Longtime whispers about institutional failures in the Boy Scouts became banner headlines in 1991. Following a two-year investigation, the Washington Times published “Scouts’ Honor,” a multi-part report based on internal and staff records from the Boy Scouts, court records from multiple states, and other data. Reporters also interviewed 200 people, ranging from victims to confessed abusers.
The findings were stark and shocking, leading to claims that the organization serves as a “magnet” for abusers who join the Scouts specifically for access to children. While reporters at the time identified 1,100 victims, the number is likely much higher due to many victims not reporting the abuse.
A Deluge of Allegations and Lawsuits
The Boy Scouts of America have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits over the years. Now, with 275 pending lawsuits and another 1,400 about to be filed, the organization filed for bankruptcy in February 2020.
While Chapter 11 bankruptcy usually puts a stop to creditor lawsuits, the victims who were exploited can still secure compensation. The Boy Scouts’ “de facto” creditors include abuse survivors and the organization’s insurance providers.
A successful reorganization of the Boy Scouts will come only by finding compromise with the victims and the insurance companies. To that end, the Boy Scouts have proposed a Victims’ Compensation Trust to pay abuse survivors.
Still, all the money in the world cannot turn back the clock. Bankruptcy allows a path for The Boy Scouts of America to return to prominence eventually. Looking forward, they want to restore trust and faith. What they will never be able to restore is the peace of mind of abused former Scouts. Nor can the organization earn back trust simply by cutting a check.
In the end, a powerful youth organization may trudge on, if not thrive again, while the survivors of abuse are left to move forward as best they can.