The Boy Scouts of America’s bankruptcy filing on Tuesday could yield important evidence in the thousands of sexual-abuse cases against the century-old organization, according to a Boston lawyer who has represented dozens of victims.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian said he looks forward to the opportunity to gain access to the information, which he believes will explain what the organization knew about the abuse, when they learned about it, and how it was handled.
“They’re going to have to fairly compensate victims of sexual abuse and hopefully reveal all files in their possession concerning sexual abuse — so there’s going to be a cost here,” Garabedian said.
Since the 1920s, the BSA has kept confidential files about staff and volunteers implicated in sexual abuse. As of January, a court deposition listed 7,819 suspected abusers and 12,254 victims.
The hallowed national organization filed for federal bankruptcy protection after thousands of men and boys sought settlements for alleged sexual abuse by scoutmasters or scout leaders.
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Garabedian said news of the bankruptcy filing had led to a flurry of new alleged victims reaching out to him.
“I think that the bankruptcy filing will provide a great measure of validation to victims of sexual abuse because the victims are seeing that The Boy Scouts of America are now having a day of reckoning," said Garabedian, who was at the center of numerous lawsuits against the Catholic Church portrayed in the movie “Spotlight.”
Previously, the BSA had denied allowing suspected abusers to remain in the organization, but The Associated Press uncovered multiple cases of known predators in leadership positions.
The Western Massachusetts Council, which is made up of Boy Scout chapters in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties, said the bankruptcy filing will not affect its day-to-day operations. The local councils are separate entities that are not under court protection.
“[Youth protection is] something we take very seriously here," said council Executive Director Gary Savignano. The council, he said, is a leader in the national for youth protection and that their protocol has been used by a number of other organizations.
The training for scout leaders and volunteers calls for the three R’s of youth protection: recognize that anyone could be an abuser; respond when someone is doing something that goes against your gut or safety guidelines; and report attempted or actual abuse or any activity you think is wrong to a trusted adult.
The BSA’s website boasts approximately 2.2 million youth members and approximately 800,000 volunteers. The organization estimate that since its founding in 1910, more than 130 million young men and women have been involved in scouting, with more than 35 million adult volunteers.