A group of lawyers is claiming to have uncovered hundreds of previously unreported cases of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts, according to a lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania on Monday. The plaintiff in the case, named only as S.D. because he wishes to keep his identity private, is alleging that he was assaulted hundreds of times by a scout leader in Pennsylvania over the course of approximately four years in the 1970s.
The lawsuit alleges that S.D.’s abuse would not have been possible had it not been for the negligence of the Boy Scouts, that the organization conspired to keep incidents of sexual assault a secret, and that the organization and other defendants engaged in “reckless misconduct” in failing to protect its young participants.
The litigation stems from an effort to unearth previously unreported cases of child sexual abuse in one of America’s most prominent youth organizations, spearheaded by Abused in Scouting, a group of law firms that collaborate on bringing such cases to light.
The complaint names the Boy Scouts, the Penn Mountains Council, and S.D.’s alleged abuser, and was filed in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas.
“BSA knew for decades that sexual predators of boys had infiltrated scouting,” the complaint says, and claims that the Boy Scouts “knew or should have known the dangers” that pedophiles, including S.D.’s alleged abuser, posed to children such as him.
For decades, Boy Scouts has kept detailed files, known as the Ineligible Volunteer files, that documented pedophiles known to the organization. In the past decade, a large tranche of the documents became public through lawsuits and investigative reporting. But those records may be incomplete.
Included in S.D.’s lawsuit is a claim that Abused in Scouting has identified more than 350 people who do not appear in the Ineligible Volunteer files, S.D.’s alleged abuser among them.
S.D.’s ordeal began in approximately 1974 or 1975, when he was 12 or 13 years of age, according to the lawsuit. He was the alleged victim of an assistant scoutmaster who “actively groomed young boys under his charge for later sexual molestation,” the lawsuit says. S.D. was allegedly subjected to “hundreds of instances of fondling, hundreds of incidents of oral sexual assault and repeated attempts of anal penetration” at Camp Acahela, a Boy Scouts retreat in eastern Pennsylvania, as well as at his abuser’s home, the lawsuit says.
Requests for comment sent to phone numbers for and emails associated with the alleged abuser were not immediately returned.
S.D. has “had tremendous effects from the abuse,” said Stewart Eisenberg, S.D.’s representative and one of the lead lawyers from Abused in Scouting.
“This is the first time he’s ever come forward,” Eisenberg said. “He’s held it in for all those years.”
And S.D. is not alone.
Over the past several months, Abused in Scouting has gathered hundreds of allegations from around the country from men – and in a handful of instances, boys – who claim they were assaulted or harassed during their time in the scouts. The Washington Post reviewed a partially redacted spreadsheet, compiled by Abused in Scouting, containing details of more than 500 cases.
Tim Kosnoff, a lawyer with Abused in Scouting, told The Post that they have forwarded the allegations they compile to the Boy Scouts, with the accusers’ names redacted, so that the organization can report the abusers to law enforcement as its policy requires.
In a statement to The Post, the Boy Scouts said they had made about 120 reports to law enforcement based on information provided to them by Abused in Scouting.
“We care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” the Boy Scouts said. “We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward.”
“The BSA has taken significant steps over many years to ensure that we respond aggressively and effectively to reports of sexual abuse,” the statement continued. “We recognize, however, that there were instances in our organization’s history when cases were not addressed or handled in a manner consistent with our commitment to protect Scouts, the values of our organization, and the procedures we have in place today.”
The organization pointed to use of screening efforts and background checks to prevent abusers from joining its ranks. They also provide “youth protection education” for members, and bar one-on-one-interactions between adults and children. The Boy Scouts have a helpline where participants can report abuse.
S.D., now 57, came forward after seeing a television ad placed by Abused in Scouting that alerted people to their services. Spurred by reports that the Boy Scouts were considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would narrow the window in which victims could be compensated, Kosnoff, Eisenberg and others began gathering information from alleged victims in the spring.
(In a statement, the Boy Scouts would not confirm any plans to file for bankruptcy but said it “is working with experts and exploring all options available.”)
“It’s time to step up,” Kosnoff told The Post. He and his colleagues see S.D.’s lawsuit as the beginning of a legal battle to hold the Boy Scouts accountable for abuse perpetrated within its ranks.
Most of the alleged assaults in the database of new cases viewed by The Washington Post occurred decades ago, though Abused in Scouting say they have a client as young as 17.
It is not unusual for victims to come forward later in life, according to Camille Biros, a lawyer who has overseen compensation funds for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Many of the victims she has worked with came forward in their 50s or 60s, and had not previously shared their stories.
“There are many people who are ashamed, embarrassed, who don’t even want to attempt to report this,” she said. “I can’t tell you the number of grown men that just start weeping. They start telling the story and think they’ll be okay, but they just break down and sob.”
For the men who decide to share their stories, money is rarely the primary motivation for finally coming forward, Biros explained.
“They are looking for the acknowledgment that this actually happened to them,” she said. “Validation for the wrongs that are inflicted upon them.”
The average age at which victims of childhood sexual assault choose to disclose the abuse is 52, according to the think tank Child USA.
And more cases could be revealed. This year, laws reforming the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases will go into effect in 18 states and the District of Columbia, according to Child USA, giving victims of childhood abuse a new opportunity to seek legal recourse.
“We’ve never seen a year like this before,” said Marci Hamilton, Child USA’s founder and chief executive. “I don’t think the public is prepared for this tsunami of information about hidden child sex abuse in our culture.”