With more than 5,000 cases of confirmed or suspected Boy Scouts of America (BSA) abuse on file and hundreds of lawsuits filed, there’s no knowing how many more survivors will seek justice this year. The organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, and survivors have until November 16 to file compensation claims.
The bankruptcy application was in response to a slew of new lawsuits filed against it in various states in the past year. The suits came primarily due to lawmakers’ legal changes, such as the Child Victims Act, which took effect in August 2019. The act waived the civil statute of limitations on cases such as sexual abuse of minors, enabling victims who have been without legal recourse for decades to seek justice. Among the plaintiffs named in the suits are at least ten men from North Carolina.
In filing for bankruptcy protection, BSA can create a compensation fund for survivors. The organization requested that its local councils be left out of the claims, but the pressure is mounting on them to contribute. Each of the more than 200 councils is responsible for raising and managing its own funds. Together, they hold more than $3 billion.
New Suits Describe Culture Of Obedience
According to 21 lawsuits against BSA filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court in July, the statute of limitations was not the only factor preventing those survivors from speaking out. The suits claimed that, for decades, the scouting organization has cultivated a culture of obedience. Scouts were expected to obey their scoutmasters unquestioningly at all times.
The suits also state that the organization has known about the systematic abuse within its ranks for decades. BSA maintained files on scoutmasters and volunteers who were accused of sexual abuse. Despite its knowledge of the actions taking place, the organization allegedly did not properly train or supervise scoutmasters or volunteers. Furthermore, it covered up what was happening. The suits claim, was a dereliction of the organization’s duty to children and their parents.
The suits filed in July include charges of abuse against 14 adults. In one case, the abuse happened as long ago as the 1950s. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Mike Finnegan, said the time had come to reveal the truth about the organization’s abuse cover-ups and to give the survivors a voice.
One of the scout leaders accused of abuse was a Jesuit priest, Maurice Meyers. The abuse of a 9-year-old boy allegedly occurred between 1973 and 1974, when Meyers worked at the Ten Mile River scout camps in Narrowsburg, New York. He was said to have abused two more children.
In a statement issued in response to the new lawsuits, BSA said it was saddened by the harm done to children during their time in scouting. It added that it had taken steps to ensure that children are protected from sexual predators. The organization explained that it had created protective policies with law enforcement, child safety, and psychology experts.
At Least 15 Accused In Carolinas
In August 2019, attorneys for Abused in Scouting filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia that included allegations of sexual abuse against 15 former scout leaders from the Carolinas. Two of the accused are from the Charlotte area, while nine are from other parts of North Carolina. The remaining four are from South Carolina.
The same attorneys provided NBC Charlotte with a list containing 350 new names and 500 abuse accusations that spans the decades between the 1950s and the 1980s. One of the plaintiffs was only seven years old when the alleged abuse occurred. Another of the plaintiffs lived in a home for orphans at the time.
According to the suits, most of the abuse happened when scouts and scout leaders went on camping trips. According to Abused in Scouting, BSA did not identify some of the accused scout leaders as potential threats.
In a statement, BSA apologized to survivors of abuse that took place during scouting, and it expressed support for the survivors. The organization said it would pay for counseling services by providers of the survivors’ choice. BSA added that it reported more than 120 cases to law enforcement agencies after receiving information from the plaintiffs’ attorneys. The BSA is likely to receive similar information from other Boy Scouts abuse attorneys in the next couple of months as more survivors come forward.
The two former scout leaders from North Carolina were suspended a few years before being convicted for sexual abuse. BSA records also named Richard Kent Haytock and Herbert Melton Jacobs, Jr. as being among the 50 individuals banned from working as scout leaders or volunteers. Not all of the bans were due to allegations of sexual abuse.
Haytock’s BSA registration was suspended in May 1990, and in Mecklenburg County Court in 1999, he pleaded guilty to indecent liberties with a child. Gastonia-based Jacobs was labeled ‘ineligible’ in 1990, six years before he was convicted of numerous sex crimes.
Mark Bumgarner was another North Carolina resident who was accused of sexual abuse. According to reports, he worked as a scoutmaster when he was 21 years old. Bumgarner was charged with abusing a scout during a camping trip in 1979. BSA put him on probation following the allegation.
Bumgarner reportedly was convicted twice of the sexual abuse of children, for which he served time in jail. After being released from prison, Bumgarner moved to Virginia, where he was able to work as a scoutmaster once again. During that time, he abused two more boys, for which he was convicted of sexual battery and sentenced to six years in prison. He is now registered as a sex offender on the national database.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bumgarner’s case is one of more than 1,000 that it accused BSA of covering up after it received complaints. The publication claimed that many of the individuals who were accused of sexual abuse in 1,600 cases between 1970 and 1991 were able to return to BSA and hold leadership positions before they were convicted.