Boy Scouts of America accused of covering up decades of sexual misconduct
The Boy Scouts of America is being accused of covering up years of sexual misconduct by boy scout leaders.
Following back-to-back press conferences in New York and New Jersey, the names of 50 alleged perpetrators are set to be revealed, with New York victims’ rights attorney Jeff Anderson claiming to have identified almost 200 former boy scout leaders accused of sexual misconduct.
Anderson told NBC that the accusations could be traced to a system of denial and coverups. He said the Boy Scouts of America has files on alleged abusers dating back to the 1940s.
The victims’ rights attorney added that testimony from a January trial revealed there were more than 7,000 alleged sex abusers and over 12,000 potential victims within the organization between 1944 and 2016.
“The lives of the survivors and their families have been shattered and destroyed in so many ways,” Anderson said.
Tuesday’s press conferences expand on a 14,500-page list created by the Boy Scouts of America between 1965 and 1985 naming “ineligible volunteers” who once worked for the organization. These files became known as the “Perversion Files.”
The files were only released in 2012 by the Oregon Supreme Court and have since been made available on the website of Crew Janci LLP. The law firm represented the plaintiff in the Kerry Lewis v. Boy Scouts of America case, which brought public attention to the files, in 2010.
WATCH: Boy Scouts in ‘deep denial’ about sexual abuse in their ranks: lawyer
Anderson told media during the press conference that several of the leaders allegedly listed in the files were priests as well.
An official explained that the Boy Scouts of America had been set up to partner with local churches and that oftentimes, priests who allegedly abused boys in their own care became scout leaders or mentors in their local groups.
It’s through this partnership that priests who allegedly abused young boys in their roles as religious leaders also came into contact — and are alleged to have committed sexual misconduct — with boy scouts as well, the official said.
On Tuesday, Anderson’s team plans to release the names of 50 alleged abusers. Of these 50, Anderson said at least four are priests.
Birdie Farrell, a former speed skater and sexual abuse survivor, joined Anderson in addressing the media. She added that while the #MeToo movement has been instrumental in giving women a voice, the movement ignores boys and men who have also experienced sexual abuse.
“The fact that so many women were able to get their voice back with #MeToo was amazing, but it missed half the population,” she told reporters.
The Boy Scouts of America told NBC that members of the organization “care deeply about all victims of child sex abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting.”
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“We believe victims, we support them and we have paid for unlimited counselling by a provider of their choice,” the statement read. “Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in scouting, and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children.”
Anderson criticized these comments as “emblematic of the problem that they have at the top, and that is deep denial.”
“They have to do more than pay for counselling and believe the victims…they have to identify the truth of their own involvement… then, they have to be willing to be held accountable,” Anderson said.
During the press conference, Anderson referenced the Child Victims Act, which was signed into law in New York by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and takes effect in August.
WATCH: At least 4 Boy Scout leaders accused of sexual assault were priests
The law increases the statute of limitations of sexual abuse allegations from age 23 to 28 and moves from basing the limitation on age to focusing on the amount of time elapsed since the alleged incidents occurred. The law also allows victims to press civil charges against their accusers until they turn 55.
Anderson stated that he does not know whether any of the alleged abusers on the list have been charged.
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