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Boy Scouts: Window closing for survivors to report sex abuse

More than 130 million children have been entrusted to the care of the Boy Scouts of America over its 110 year history — and the untold percentage who were sexually abused in tents, scout camps and jamborees have until Nov. 16 to come forward. 

Survivors of sex abuse must file claims by that date to be included in the Boy Scouts of America Chapter 11 bankruptcy settlement, attorneys representing both BSA and survivors have announced. Any claims after then will not be eligible for compensation. 

The once-beloved American institution has been flooded with claims of child sex abuse in recent years, especially after the “perversion files” — internal records that prove BSA knew of and meticulously documented allegations of sex abuse for over 50 years — have slowly been made public through a string of lawsuits. 

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Decades later, many of the survivors are elderly and many of the accused dead. Scant evidence half a century down the road, coupled with state-level statutes of limitations, would make trying some of the older cases impossible. For many men, coming forward as a claimant in the bankruptcy will be their only chance to receive formal acknowledgement of their abuse from the BSA. 

“Part of the strategy of (setting a date) is that a lot of people will miss the bar day because they don’t know,” according to attorney Joseph Saunders, a Legal Examiner affiliate who has represented survivors of sex abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church. “That leaves them totally out of luck — it cuts off their future rights.” 

Here’s what to expect as a claimant. 

Will survivors of abuse have to testify? 

There are never courtroom trials in a bankruptcy settlement, Saunders explained. 

Instead, each claim is adjudicated by the creditors’ committee, which Saunders expects in this case will be comprised of a group of survivors recruited by the bankruptcy trustee, a government-appointed administrator who oversees key elements of the process. 

For the creditors’ committee, “they try to find survivors who are willing (to represent the interests of the group and) have the ability, have some business knowledge,” Saunders said. “Not the lawyers for the people — the actual people. They have the best interest at heart.” 

What information do survivors need to provide? 

Claimants will submit a written description of their abuse for review by the creditors’ committee. Details that can strengthen a claim include the abuser’s name, troop number, and dates and locations where abuse occurred. 

But since many of the claimants are describing events that occurred 20, 30, or even 60 years ago, a precise “who, what, when and where” isn’t explicitly required. 

“It shouldn’t deter somebody because they don’t know the number of the troop or something,” Saunders said.

How much are survivors eligible to receive, and when? 

Generally, the creditors’ committee will establish criteria on how to value cases, Saunders said. Factors weighed might include the frequency and duration of the abuse and the age of the child when abuse occurred. 

Saunders encourages survivors to brainstorm other considerations as well: “Is the scoutmaster a known perpetrator? Are you the only one that’s accused him? Is there corroboration? Do you have counseling records to show you’ve gotten some treatment for PTSD or abuse?” 

A bankruptcy case of this scope could take about two years to move through the court system after the bar date, Saunders estimated. 

Resources for survivors of sexual abuse and assaultIf you or a loved one experienced sexual assault as a child, support is available from advocacy organizations such as RAINN , MaleSurvivor and 1in6. Find peer support groups, specialized therapists and 24/7 anonymous chat helplines.