The Boy Scouts of America have made an $850 million dollar settlement with their abuse victims, the largest settlement in United States history.
Ken Rothweiler, the attorney who represents the largest group of Boy Scout claimants says that it’s a start, as for the insurance rights will be put into a trust that the survivor’s group will control and could amount to billions more for victims, a group that spans over 16,800 people. Rothweiler shares that the majority of his clients are in their 60’s and 70’s, and that the abuse happened when they were teens.
More than 84,000 people were a part of the lawsuit against the organization, which has been around for more 100 years. There have been claims of abuse from volunteers and leaders alike since the 1960s.
The BSA (Boy Scouts of America) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, which is a bankruptcy that allows the organization to remain in possession and have the powers of a trustee. BSA can continue to operate as an organization, and even borrow new money. During the time of this bankruptcy claim, there was worries from the legal team representing the victims that this was a move to limit the damages of the allegations.
Michael Mertz, the lawyer who has represented the Boy Scouts victims claimed, “This is an effort by the national organization to avoid paying full and fair compensation to the victims of abuse.
The public file for bankruptcy gave courage to others to come forward and share their story of abuse, stories which they had been scared into keeping a secret for six decades. One man told NBC News that he had been a 14-year-old-boy in Louisiana when his scout master invited him to go by the lake to look at the stars in order to get his astronomy merit badge.
When the BSA filed for bankruptcy on November 2016, Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney working on the case, found this as an opportunity to force the BSA to make its “perversion files”. These files are accounts dated as far back as 1944 and contained the names of all the scout leaders who preyed on the young boys, as well as the victims of abuse. As of right now, only the files from 1965-1985 have been made public.
The “perversion files” highlight what is truly wrong with the system that the now bankrupt organization had in place, as accounts were made of abuse, the abusers put on a probationary period, and then let loose back onto unsuspecting children.
The Boy Scouts organization see the settlement as a significant step forward for mending the relations with the public, and for finding some kind of compensation for the victims.
In a statement given on Thursday, the organization outlined its two key objectives; to “equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and to continue carrying out its mission for years to come.”
They also insisted that scouting is “safer now than ever before.” They outlined in a statement made last year the differences in their policies handling abusive behavior than in years prior.
“From mandatory youth protection training and background checks for all volunteers and staff, to policies that prohibit one-on-one interaction between youth and adults and require that any suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement, our volunteers and employees take youth protection extremely seriously and do their part to keep the kids safe.”