Content warning: Sexual violence and sexual harassment
The recent release of a list of suspects’ names in sexual abuse cases involving the Boy Scouts of America will likely to lead to an influx of cases against the organization in the near future.
Thousands of Boy Scouts of America files from between 1947 and 2005 were introduced as a result of the 2010 case Lewis v. Boy Scouts of America et al. The “perversion files” contain information about individuals suspected of sexual abuse who have worked with the Boy Scouts, about 400 of which account for suspected sexual abusers in California, including three suspects from Berkeley.
“We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice,” the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement to ABC News. “Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children.”
According to Oakland litigation and trial attorney John Winer, who has previously worked on Boy Scout abuse cases, California’s statute of limitations laws for child sexual abuse cases will likely change in January 2020, allowing for an increased retroactive window for victims to come forward with cases.
Other states have already implemented these changes according to Winer. For instance, New York passed the Child Victims Act on Feb. 14, creating a one-year retroactive window starting August 2019 for survivors who previously did not file a lawsuit within the statutes of limitations time frame, according to Jeff Anderson & Associates attorney Stacey Benson.
“With the limitations opened up, we will probably be getting cases,” Winer said. “The Boy Scouts have got an enormous problem for a long time … and have tried at times to act like they have preventative measures, but there has been no sign that they do.”
The Berkeley files reach back as far as 1973, 1988 and 1990. Depending on the potential re-evaluation of the statute of limitations litigation and the retroactive lookback window in California, some of these cases may have the ability to be pursued further.
“I believe that the more we talk about the issue, given that it’s such a taboo and sensitive topic, the easier it’s going to be, or at least there will be steps made to help combat the issue and bring it to light … and encourage other people … to find their voice and come forward,” Benson said. “I hope it empowers survivors to share their stories and not live in the shadows anymore.”