BSA at Tipping Point on Sexual Abuse in Boy Scouts

Picture of Scouts

There is no doubt about it: The Boy Scouts are in crisis. Boy Scouts of America is facing hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits, potential reorganization in bankruptcy, declining membership, and the basic question of whether the organization is still relevant. What does it mean to be a Scout? For parents and youth today, is it worth it to be a Scout?

These problems are not new. Since at least the 1920s, Boy Scouts of America has kept incident reports on sexual abuse, called Ineligible Volunteer Files. Membership has been declining since the 1970s. Society has long questioned the relevance of Scouting, and in the late 1960s BSA paid for a comprehensive study about how to attract boys to the program, especially when they become teens. The main outcome of that study was to open the Explorer Scout program to girls in the early 1970s.

But it seems Boy Scout’s problems may have reached a tipping point.


  • Declining Membership

While Scout membership has been steadily shrinking since its peak in 1971, Scout membership rates declined by nearly 30 percent in the last decade. The biggest hit was losing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2018. The Mormon Church was one of the largest sponsors of Boy Scouts in the country, the largest in the Western US.  LDS Scouts made up almost 20 percent of all youth members of Boy Scouts as of 2018 when the Church announced it was terminating its 100-year-old relationship with Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts had been the official program for boys in the LDS Church.

  • Awareness of Sexual Abuse in Boy Scouts

BSA’s “Ineligible Volunteer Files” document reports of child sexual abuse in Boy Scouts. These “IV Files,” or “Perversion Files” as BSA historically called them, made headlines in 2010 when over 1,200 of them were used as evidence in a sex abuse trial in Portland, Oregon. I was one of the trial attorneys in that trial, on behalf of one of several men who had been sexually abused as a kid by Timur Dykes, the Scoutmaster of a troop sponsored by the Mormon Church. Those files showed that BSA had known for years that child molesters had been targeting the Boy Scout organization for access to victims. The IV Files were in the news again in 2012 when the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the 1,200 files used as evidence in our Portland trial should be made public. Those files are available through our office.

Since then, the lawyers at this firm and others around the country have represented hundreds of men – and some women – who were sexually abused and exploited when they were children in scouting. Lawsuits against Boy Scouts of America and local Councils have revealed that over 8,000 Ineligible Volunteer files that BSA created still exist, dating from 1946 to present day. BSA’s own expert estimates that BSA has records on approximately 7,800 identified child molesters. We may have information on abusive Scout volunteers that is not available online.

For many reasons, we think BSA’s records do not tell the whole story of child sexual abuse in Boy Scouts. Most Scout volunteers who sexually abuse boys in Scouting are not named in BSA’s files. For one thing, most boys do not report abuse because they are embarrassed, confused, afraid, think they will not be believed, or many other reasons. For another, BSA destroyed an unknown number of files before the 1980s. There may be information about abusive Scout volunteers we have found through other sources, even though the abuser is not named in a BSA IV File.

  • Statute of Limitations Windows Allow Victims to Bring Claims Now

state legislature

The #MeToo movement has more people talking about sexual abuse and sexual assault. People are more open about talking about incidents that happened years ago, as more people, even sports stars, celebrities, and public figures come forward with their own stories of abuse and assault. There is safety in numbers. If you were sexually abused in Boy Scouts, you were not the only one.

Many states have recognized the need to allow victims access to justice, and the need for time to gain that access. Most children who are sexually abused, especially boys, do not understand how the abuse affects them as adults until many years go by. It has taken society and state legislatures a long time to realize this and to reform statutes of limitations for bringing sexual abuse claims.

Despite fierce opposition from the Boy Scouts, many states have now passed extended statutes of limitations allowing people to bring criminal claims or civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse well into adulthood. Several states have recently passed laws opening temporary “windows” to allow a time for victims of child abuse to bring civil lawsuits against organizations like the Boy Scouts (or Troop sponsors like the LDS Church). For example, New York’s new window allows victims of child abuse to file a civil lawsuit between August 14, 2019 to August 14, 2020, no matter when the abuse happened. New Jersey, Montana, and other states recently passed similar windows.

California recently passed AB218, which will open a three-year window for civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse against perpetrators and institutions like the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, and others. That bill is sitting on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, awaiting his signature. Assuming he signs it, the law will go into effect and the California window will open on January 1, 2020.

Hundreds of thousands of boys participated in Boy Scouts in New York and California; tens of thousands of girls participated in Explorers. With statute of limitations windows open in New York, California, and other states, Boy Scouts of America and its local Councils may face a wave of new civil lawsuits it cannot navigate.


As more lawsuits are filed, chatter increases about BSA filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy would not mean the Boy Scouts would go out of business; it means BSA would reorganize its assets and its liabilities. Essentially a BSA bankruptcy would probably mean victims of sexual abuse in Boy Scouts would have a limited time to come forward and bring a claim in the bankruptcy case. After that deadline, they would not be allowed to bring a claim at all.

BSA will not confirm the bankruptcy rumors but admits it is exploring all its “financial options.” A BSA bankruptcy is not necessarily a bad thing for sexual abuse survivors, but it would put a deadline on claims. That claims deadline is the biggest benefit to the Boy Scouts of going bankrupt. If BSA and its local Councils could resolve all sexual abuse claims against them – and all coverage disputes with their insurance carriers – in one court proceeding at one time and then be finished, it would give the organization a fresh start. That is the purpose of bankruptcy.

A new, post-bankruptcy Boy Scouts would be the better organization to answer the questions of what it means to be a Scout today and whether it is still worth it to be a Scout. But before BSA can answer those questions, the organization must honestly and fully address its history of child sexual abuse.


We have information about sexual abuse in Boy Scouts and abusive Scout volunteers. We may also be able to answer your questions about possible claims, statutes of limitations, and how a BSA bankruptcy could affect your rights. If you or someone who know was abused in the Boy Scouts, call or email us with questions you might have. 503-616-5007 or

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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