A lawsuit filed late Monday against the Boy Scouts of America says hundreds of former Scouts have come forward in recent months with accounts of sexual abuse, allegations from across eight decades that reach nearly every state.
Lawyers began collecting the accounts this spring as they prepared a suit, which they filed on behalf of a client who alleges his former scoutmaster plied him with drugs and alcohol before repeatedly sexually abusing him.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, the lawyers said they have nearly 800 other clients who were abused while Scouts. The suit says at least 350 abusers do not appear in the Boy Scouts’ disciplinary files, citing that as evidence that the organization has not adequately vetted its volunteers and hidden the extent of the sexual abuse scandal.
“It is apparent that the Boy Scout Defendants continue to hide the true nature of their cover-up and the extent of the pedophilia epidemic within their organizations because the vast majority of new victims coming forward involve claims of abuse at the hands of pedophiles who are not yet identified by the Boy Scouts of America,” the complaint reads.
The law firm’s client list, obtained by USA TODAY, alleges molestation ranging from fondling to sodomy. Some of the men accused by former Scouts ended up in court or were punished administratively for similar crimes, sometimes many years after their alleged assaults. About two dozen of the men were kicked out of Scouting for abuse. USA TODAY is naming only those who fit one or more of those categories.
The accused tend to be men of stature in their communities, most of whom volunteered as troop leaders or assistant troop leaders. They were police officers and members of the military, teachers and a mayor, doctors and a child psychologist.
Their prominent positions offered them easy access to children. They allegedly caught their prey in tents and homemade shelters in the wilderness, in their cars shuttling young boys back and forth to Scouting activities, and sometimes in the children’s own homes.
Their access was unique to the Boy Scouts itself – giant Jamborees and secretive Order of the Arrow ceremonies, isolated summer campgrounds and well-used church recreation halls. They’re accused of trading on the youth organization’s all-American wholesomeness to assuage parents who might not otherwise have allowed young boys to be alone with adult men.
“Looking at the hidden predators we’re uncovering, it sends chills down my spine,” said Tim Kosnoff, an attorney in the case who led abusedinscouting.com, a campaign to encourage victims to come forward before the lawsuit was filed late Monday in Pennsylvania state court. “It remains an open question of just how dangerous Scouting is today.”
One client claimed a licensed doctor instructed members of his troop to sleep in the nude during campouts, fondling them after they fell asleep. The abuse allegedly continued during medical exams. Decades later, the man would lose his license after a similar claim emerged.
Another client accused the former mayor of a small town of fondling him from the time he was 7 until he turned 18. Parents trusted the mayor with the care of their sons in Scouts, the client said. In July, the son of a former employee sued the former mayor, alleging he had abused the boy for years. Boy Scouts of America also is named as a defendant.
Although Boy Scouts of America has been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse in recent years, the sheer volume of men lining up to be represented by the law firm hasn’t been seen since the release more than a decade ago of the Boy Scouts’ own ineligible volunteer files. Those confidential records, which became public during an earlier lawsuit, were kept by the organization on suspected or known abusers from 1947 to 2005.
A USA TODAY review of the law firm’s client list found only 28 of the alleged abusers were named in Boy Scouts’ files, known internally as the “perversion files.” In those cases, the incidents on the new client list allegedly happened either before or around the time the Scout leader was blacklisted.
The Boy Scouts of America will have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit after it is served. In a statement late Monday, the organization said it has taken steps to ensure that “we respond aggressively and effectively to reports of sexual abuse.”
“We care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward,” the statement said. “Upon receipt of this information from the group of plaintiff’s attorneys, we immediately investigated the limited information provided and our efforts have already resulted in approximately 120 reports to law enforcement. We are continuing to manually search old paper records at the local level and will continue to notify law enforcement.”
Matt Stewart, who with his brother filed the lawsuit in 2003 that exposed the ineligible volunteer files for the first time, is not surprised by the avalanche of allegations, even so many years later.
“Some people never want to come forward,” Stewart said. “Some people have buried this chapter of their life deep inside of them. Some people don’t want to relive the victimization. They don’t want to go up against Big Brother in a court of law like I did.”
Michael Robinson, a law firm client who agreed to speak publicly, waited more than 40 years to come forward to accuse his pediatrician, Alan Schwartz, of fondling him during campouts.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” he said. “You hide it, you don’t want to talk about it. But it needs to be talked about now. The public needs to know about it.”
The Boy Scouts’ response over the years has been “totally unacceptable,” Robinson said. “I just hope to God they’re not still doing it to kids.”
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