Day of reckoning for group that failed boys

In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, Boy Scouts lead the Pledge of Allegiance to begin a Veterans Day ceremony in Wrightwood, Calif. Facing a possible bankruptcy due to sex-abuse litigation, the Boy Scouts of America issued a new apology Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, to survivors of abuse and announced plans for expanded services to support them.


I have represented victims of sexual abuse for over 35 years. When I started out, the issue barely registered on the cultural Richter scale — newspapers rarely reported it and politicians paid it little mind. Now, the Boy Scouts of America, the most iconic youth organization in the nation, has 110 years almost to the day after its founding in the United States, declared bankruptcy under the weight of its awful sexual abuse. Never in all my years of practice did I ever believe there was a realistic chance of this happening. So why now?

The answer squarely lies in the 2010 Portland, Oregon trial of Lewis v. Boy Scouts of America where a jury returned a 19.9 million dollar verdict on behalf of a 38 year-old man who was sexually abused by his scoutmaster. While the jury’s verdict — the largest in the nation’s history against the Boy Scouts — in part reflected the damage experienced by Mr. Lewis, the crux of the verdict was the 18.5 million dollar punitive award which reflected the jury’s intent to punish the Boy Scouts for concealing its decades’ long problem of sexual abuse by its adult leaders. The history of the abuse and the facts of this cover-up were documented in stark, meticulous and disturbing detail in the Boy Scout’s infamous “Perversion Files” released as a result of the case. This mountain of files, along with the callous and indifferent testimony of BSA executives, conclusively proved the organization’s knowledge of the its problem and its concerted effort to conceal it from scouts, their parents and the public.


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