Almost 90,000 sexual abuse claims expected against US Boy Scouts

The US flag is carried by Boy Scouts in California on July 4, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Almost 90,000 victims of sexual abuse that took place in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) had come forward by Monday evening (Nov 16), the deadline to receive compensation from the organisation, a lawyer for the victims told AFP.

Attorney Michael Pfau said that there had been "88,000 claims filed to date. It will probably be 100,000 by day's end."

The figure, revealing the scale of alleged abuse committed over decades by scout leaders, dwarfs the roughly 11,000 complaints believed to have been filed in recent years against the Catholic Church.

"We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward," the scouting organisation said in a statement.

"We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain.

"We intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation. The response we have seen from survivors has been gut wrenching. We are deeply sorry," the BSA added.

The group, founded in 1910, has 2.2 million members between the ages of five and 21.

Rocked by accusations of sexual abuse, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in February in an effort to block settlement claims from hitting the organisation directly and instead funnelled them to a compensation fund.

The group, which is valued at more than US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion), has not said how much they intend to spend via this fund.

Revelations of misconduct in US scouting circles came to widespread attention in 2012 when the Los Angeles Times published internal documents spelling out details of decades of sexual abuse.

Some 5,000 "perversion files" were uncovered, identifying about as many alleged culprits among scout leadership, including scout masters and troop leaders.

Most incidents were never reported to authorities, and the BSA took it upon themselves to remove the accused offenders.

Multiple cases have been filed against the BSA since 2012, especially after several states extended the statute of limitations on allegations of child sexual assault.

And US Catholic Church leadership, also roiled by child sexual abuse claims, is set to meet virtually for its annual conference Monday.

The agenda has been updated to include discussion on a damning Vatican report released last week on defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the silence of many of his peers.

The 450-page document details several incidents in which young priests or seminarians reported allegations of abuse by McCarrick but investigations were never opened.

"It will take time to process the many lessons found in the hundreds of pages of footnotes... the tragic outcome was not the result of a single failure, but rather resulted from multiple failures across many years," said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who will be presiding over the conference.

"These failures were fed by the deeper roots of our culture of clericalism," he said, adding that "individually and collectively, we apologise for the trauma caused by those who commit abuse."

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