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Parts of a scout leader uniform layed out on a floor: shoes, hat, watch, scarf

Victims of abuse within the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) may wonder if it’s too late to file a claim against the organization. What if the abuse happened 10 or 20 years ago or more?

It used to be that state law restricted the time a victim had to file a civil or criminal lawsuit against a perpetrator and/or the organization he or she worked for. Recent laws have changed that in many states, allowing limited windows of opportunity for victims to come forward and seek justice.

For claims against the BSA, there is still time. No matter when the abuse occurred, victims have until November 16, 2020, to file a claim.

Victims Need to File a Proof of Claims Form

Citing declining membership and increased financial hardships related to sexual abuse lawsuits, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in February 2020. The bankruptcy court later approved a November 16, 2020 deadline for victims seeking compensation through the BSA’s bankruptcy proceedings. Those who fail to meet that deadline will be barred from filing suit against the national organization in the future.

To file such a claim, victims must submit a proof of claims form. This form requires basic contact and background information as well as an outline of the nature of the sexual abuse. Questions victims will need to answer on the form include the following:

  • What was each sexual abuser’s position, title, or relationship to you in scouting?
  • Where were you at the time you were sexually abused?
  • How many times were you sexually abused?
  • What did the sexual abuse involve?
  • Have you ever reported the sexual abuse to law enforcement?

Because of the personal nature of these questions, victims may hesitate to share it. The bankruptcy court, however, will keep each person’s identity confidential and will share the information provided only with court-appointed officials and representatives of the parties to evaluate the claim.

Victims who can’t remember all the details of the abuse because it occurred long ago are still encouraged to file a claim and to work with an attorney to fill out the form in the best way possible.

After including the information about the abuse itself, victims are asked to describe the impact of that abuse on their lives, including the psychological and relational injuries.

BSA Bankruptcy Proceedings May Result in a Trust for Victims

All survivors who experienced sexual abuse within the BSA are encouraged to file a claim, even if they didn’t report the abuse to the BSA or anyone else at the time it occurred. Victims who previously filed lawsuits or asserted claims in connection with sexual abuse against the BSA or its local councils and never received compensation can also file through the bankruptcy proceedings. Even those who received a settlement who believe they have additional claims beyond what was agreed to in the settlement can file.

As the bankruptcy proceeds, a trust will likely be set up for BSA sexual abuse survivors. If that happens, those who have their claims approved would receive settlement funds for those claims. The amount of the funds has yet to be determined.

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