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How Many Sexual Abuse Cases Have Occurred in the Boy Scouts of America

Thousands. Going back as far as the 1920s, official investigations have revealed that thousands of Boy Scouts suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Boy Scout leaders and volunteers and that the Boy Scouts of America itself covered up many of these cases.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a Boy Scout leader or volunteer, you are not alone. Many survivors of sexual abuse have turned to legal action in order to hold the Boy Scouts of America accountable and get the help they need. If you have any questions, please contact us; our Sexual Abuse lawyers care and here to help.

A Brief History of Abuse in the Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America – “BSA” – was founded in 1910 and since then has become one of the largest youth organizations in America, with over 100 million Americans participating in Boy Scout programs. Modelled after its British counterpart, the Boy Scout Association, the Boy Scouts of America aimed to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.” Unfortunately, that is no longer what the BSA is known for.

As early as the 1920’s, the BSA began to gather data concerning volunteers who would be deemed ineligible to serve in the BSA due to sexual abuse claims. These “Red Files” of child molesters in the BSA – also known as “Perversion Files” or “Ineligible Volunteer Files” – led to the removal of thousands of abusers prior to 1935. However, by 1971 BSA executives admitted to destroying thousands of these “Red Files” once they determined that the files were “outdated” due to the abuser’s age or even death, even though it is the victims of these abusers who suffer when a “Red File” is destroyed, as each file acknowledged that the BSA was aware of the abuse perpetrated against them.

Luckily, due to increased litigation regarding the abuse, a database has been published, containing the names of those expelled from the Boy Scouts of America on suspicion of sexual abuse. This database cannot be considered comprehensive, due to cases not being reported or Red Files being destroyed, but rather a starting point.

The Boy Scouts of America & Litigation

In the last several decades, hundreds of individual sex abuse cases have been brought against the BSA. In 2010, the Boy Scouts of America was ordered to produce a previously-internal list of men accused of preying on boys entrusted to the BSA, which resulted in over 10,000 cases of reported abuse. This number is, unfortunately, an understatement, due to the stigma and shame associated with coming forward about abuse against well-respected members of society, as many of the abusers were.

Due to the release of the database and list of men accused of sexual abuse against Boy Scout members, the public has finally been able to see a little of what has been hidden by BSA up to this point. After a landmark case in Oregon where six former Boy Scouts sued for abuse they suffered at the hands of an Assistant Scoutmaster, 1,200 additional secret Boy Scout files were released to the public, revealing that BSA officials urged sexual offenders to resign rather than reporting them to the police, thus making BSA as an organization culpable in the abuse.

The Boy Scouts of America have stated that they are doing more to prevent future abusers from gaining access to vulnerable youths, such as a BSA policy prohibiting adults from being alone with Scouts. However, alleged abusers have, since the policy was enacted in 1987, consistently violated the policy with few ramifications. While the steps taken to ensure the safety of the Scouts are in the right direction, BSA needs to fully hold abusers accountable for their actions if there is to be any positive change in the organization.

Bankruptcy and Moving Forward

In early 2020, BSA made its way into bankruptcy court, filing for Chapter 11 Protection that allows BSA to continue operations while cases are being brought against the organization.  Under bankruptcy protection, BSA could request a judge review and approve a compensation plan that could more uniformly structure payouts.

In an open letter to the victims coming forward about the abuse they suffered at the hands of BSA volunteers, BSA’s national chairman, Jim Turley, stated BSA has “initiated a voluntary financial restructuring” to ensure BSA can “equitably compensate all victims of past abuse in [BSA] programs.” He went on to say that BSA believes that “all victims” should receive “support and compensation” for the atrocities committed against them. Per the BSA’s most recent tax filing, the organization has a reported revenue of $285 million and assets of $1.4 billion. It can only be hoped that a portion of this money is being set aside for victim compensation.

What Can I Do About It?

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, know that hundreds of others who have also been victimized are taking stands to hold the Boy Scouts of America accountable. Typically, a statue of limitations determines the deadline a person has to file their lawsuit. If a suit is filed after the deadline, then the case will be considered barred, meaning the victim will not be able to recover anything.

Attorney John Gomez

Sexual Abuse Attorney, John Gomez

Recently, however, many states have opened their statute of limitations for lawsuits concerning childhood sexual abuse, so even if it has been decades since you or a loved one suffered the abuse, it may not be too late to file. California is one of the states temporarily opening up the statute of limitations. The last time California did this for victims of sexual abuse was in 2003 and it resulted in nearly 1,000 lawsuits against Churches and Youth Organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America.

The new California law, referred to as AB 218, allows many victims who were too old to sue, past the deadline of the statute of limitations, to now file a lawsuit. It also includes a provision allowing triple damages if the employer of the abuser covered up the abuse. This means that the potential recovery could be very high for victims who were abused while in the care of Boy Scouts of America.

Our law firm has represented victims of child sexual abuse across the nation.  We will be able to give you legal advice about your potential claim, and represent you to the fullest potential to get the maximum recovery available for your case.  If you or a loved one suffered any form of child abuse in the Boy Scouts of America, please reach out to our team of lawyers to see if you have a potential claim against the organization.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490
Posted in: Children's Rights
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