The Boy Scouts of America is being threatened by a growing wave of lawsuits over decades-old allegations of sexual abuse. More litigation is on the way as lawyers for alleged abuse victims from Montana prepare to file suit against the organization.
Seattle Attorney Jason Amala says the Boy Scouts of America has for decades branded itself as an organization led by safe and trustworthy men.
"But the Boy Scouts knew that wasn’t true. Not all of them were safe and trustworthy. Thousands of them weren’t. In fact, thousands of them were the exact opposite, they were some of the most dangerous men out there."
Amala, a partner of a law firm that specializes in abuse cases, says the Scouts knew when it was headquartered in New Jersey decades ago that hundreds, if not thousands, of scout leaders were sexually abusing children.
Amala says the Scouts at that time kept lists of men who were believed to have abused boys.
"That works on the front end to help keep these guys out, although sometimes they let these guys back in even they knew they had these allegations of child abuse, but they didn’t tell parents or kids what they knew. They basically sat on this information and didn’t do anything to protect kids anywhere, including in Montana, including in other states."
New Jersey recently passed a law that will allow purported out-of-state sexual abuse victims to sue Boy Scouts of America for allegations of abuse dating back for decades.
It provides those survivors an opportunity to sue under a two-year window that opens December 1.
"The Boy Scouts headquarters, for a little over two decades, was located in New Jersey. That includes the 1960s and 1970s," Amala says. "What this means is that people who were abused in other states, including Montana, during that time period can now bring a claim in New Jersey for the abuse they suffered elsewhere, outside of New Jersey."
Amala says dozens of men who say they were abused during their time in the Boy Scouts in Montana have approached his law office asking about their legal options.
"Montana has tried to revise its own statute of limitations, make some changes, but they don’t necessarily apply to everyone. With this new law in New Jersey we're obviously going back to people that we’ve talked with in the past to say, 'Hey, we think there may be an avenue for you to come forward.'"
Montana Public Radio reached out to the Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America for comment, but their representatives did not respond by Friday’s deadline.
The Associated Press reports hundreds of other lawsuits filed in Guam and other states have already strained the Boy Scouts’ finances and have led the organization to consider bankruptcy, among other options. In a statement responding to a pending New Jersey suit, the Boy Scouts says it apologizes to the victims and encourages them to report abuse to law enforcement. A lawyer representing 150 people who say they were abused as Boy Scouts is planning a suit there when the state's new civil statute of limitations law takes effect.
Seattle Attorney Jason Amala says the Scouts need to account for all the reports of sexual abuse and alleged coverups.
"They apologize, but they keep their records hidden. The Catholic Church – they apologize, but they keep their records hidden. I think what you need – and what I hope these laws accomplish – is to help everyone understand what happened. That’s really the only way we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future."
The Boy Scouts of America has set up a hotline at 1-844-SCOUTS1 to report known or suspected cases of abuse. Find more information at: https://www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/safety-moments/scouts-first-helpline/