This week, nine people filed sexual abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America, joining a roster of accusations that the organization fostered a culture of abuse over the course of four decades. In addition to the individual incidents, these suits allege that the organization was not only aware of the abuse, but tracked it, documenting problematic individuals in a detailed ledger, nicknamed the “perversion files.” Thus the aim of the legal battle is not just individual accountability, but a broader reckoning for the organization—an intention to make the secret files public.
The cases against the Boy Scouts were filed in New York state as part of the Child Victim’s Act, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February, which opens a year-long window that extends the time frame for survivors of childhood sexual assault to file civil or criminal suits. The bill opened hundreds of cases in New York state on its first day, against individuals and institutions including the Catholic Church.
For the Boy Scouts, the open window comes in the midst of a broader upheaval. Per the Washington Post:
The allegations mark the latest round of legal claims stemming from a once-secret trove of internal documents that detailed more than 7,800 pedophiles in their ranks. The Scouts have come under increased scrutiny in recent years as investigative reporting and a raft of lawsuits have unearthed these previously secret files. Advocates and attorneys claim the documents show the Scouts knew they had a massive pedophile problem and failed to properly alert police and warn children and their parents. One attorney, Tim Kosnoff, recently told The Washington Post that he believes children are still being abused in the Scouts, citing a case as recent as June 2018.
The suits allege that the Boy Scouts were aware that the structure of the institution was a convenient landing spot for pedophiles and did nothing to rework the organization or protect its charges. “In every single instance this is a trusted authority figure, a scout leader, charged with developing the youth....in every instance raped a child under his charge and caused that child to suffer in secrecy, and in silence and in shame for decades,” victim lawyer Jeff Anderson told The New York Post on Tuesday. Boy Scout leadership has repeatedly denied the existence of such documentation and downplayed former scouts who have come forward with stories of abuse.