The Boy Scouts of America seems to have an ongoing problem of sexual abuse against children that dates back to the early days of the organization. The abuse allegations have resulted in thousands of lawsuits against the abusers and the organization, which has, as a result, instituted many new policies and educational programs over the years in an effort to eliminate the problem. The organization keeps a highly confidential set of files known as the "perversion files" to keep track of Scout employees and volunteers that have been accused of sexual abuse, in order to keep those people from re-entering the organization. However, it has newly come to light that this attempted line of defense against sexual predators has not always worked so well, and that the organization often covered up for those accused of abuse.
The Los Angeles Times recently conducted an investigation into more than 1,500 of the Boy Scouts of America's confidential "perversion files" dated between 1970 and 1991. The review of these files revealed that many of these supposed "blacklisted" abusers found their way back into the organization, by either changing their information slightly or the Boy Scouts simply not checking to see if those volunteer or employee applicants were in the "perversion files," only to be accused of sexual abuse again. In addition, the Los Angeles Times discovered that Boy Scout officials have long been covering up allegations of child molestation by employees and volunteers of the Boy Scouts of America organization. The files show that officials who were informed of the molestation would simply ask the alleged molesters to resign from their position in the organization, citing reasons which would allow for them to maintain respect and not jeopardize their reputation in the community. Most of these reported instances of molestation went unreported by the Boy Scouts to both the parents of the victims and the local police.
The news of sexual abuse to children going unreported by a well-respected organization is certainly reminiscent of the Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal that was brought to light in California roughly ten years ago. In the cases that arose out of that scandal, plaintiffs were able to bring suit against both the abusers personally as well as the Catholic Church for being aware of the abuse and failing to take proper actions to correct, prevent, and/or report it. The Boy Scouts organization, much like the Catholic Church is trusted by parents who expect their children to be safe when they are under the care of the organization. As such, these organizations owe a legal duty to protect and safeguard the children who are under their care, and a failure to ensure that abusers do not have ay further contact with children as well as a failure to report sexual abusers to proper police authorities is often considered a violation of that legal duty.
Causes of action that were cited in lawsuits against Catholic Church personnel and organizations in childhood sexual abuse cases include negligence; negligent supervision/failure to warn; negligent hiring/retention; breach of fiduciary duty; negligent failure to warn, train, or educate plaintiff; negligence per se for statutory violations; premises liability; sexual battery; vicarious liability; intentional infliction of emotional distress; fraud (for misrepresentation of employees). A very large number of these cases against the Catholic Church resulted in settlements in which the Church paid millions in damages to victims and their families. Lawsuits against the Catholic Church were particularly successful in Southern California. In 2005, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, in Orange County, reached settlements in the sex abuse cases totaling roughly $100 million. This was the largest payout from the church to the alleged sexual abuse victims in the nation-wide sexual abuse scandal involving the Catholic Church until 2007, when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled its more than 500 sex abuse cases for over $660 million dollars.
The California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.1 addresses lawsuits for damages brought by victims of childhood sexual abuse. The section provides that a victim of childhood sexual abuse must bring suit by the age of 26, or within three years after the victim discovers his or her psychological injury or illness resulting from the childhood sexual abuse, whichever period of time expires later. Under the statute as it currently stands, the latest a victim can bring suit against an alleged child molester is the age of 29. However, in February of 2012, a bill was introduced in California that would amend the time limit for bringing such a suit. Under this pending legislation, plaintiffs could bring suit under Section 340.1 until the age of 35 or within 3 years of the plaintiff discovering psychological injury or illness resulting from the childhood sexual abuse. If this legislation passes, it would essentially extend the statute of limitations for the bringing of lawsuits for childhood sexual abuse 10 more years than is currently allowed.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse, it is important to contact one of our experienced California sexual abuse lawyers as soon as possible. We will help you understand your rights and the legal recourse available to you as we work diligently to help you bring a close to this chapter in your life.