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New Jersey may soon become “hub” for sexual abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts, as a new law goes into effect later this year which may provide an avenue for victims of childhood abuse nationwide to file complaints against the organization in the state where it was once headquartered.
In May 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law, which extends the New Jersey statute of limitations for child sex abuse until the victim is 55 years old, or within seven years after they first realized the abuse caused them harm. The change goes into effect December 1, 2019, and also creates a two year “window” for individuals with previously barred claims to file a lawsuit in the state against individuals or organizations responsible for the conduct.
A recent report published by NJ.com describes how the law is expected to result in numerous lawsuits against Boy Scouts of America, which was headquartered in North Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1954 to 1978.
The Boy Scouts already face a growing number of sexual abuse claims nationwide, each raising similar allegations that the organization covered up credible instances of abuse that mainly occurred during the period the organization was run out of New Jersey. Plaintiffs indicate they were exposed to known or suspected sexual predators allowed to volunteer or work for the Boy Scouts. The organization is now based out of Texas.
According to allegations raised in complaints already filed, Boy Scouts of America buried information about known threats to children by keeping secret “perversion files” on those considered to be sexual predators who had worked with the organization.
Plaintiffs maintain those files were maintained in New Jersey for some time, indicating that between 1944 and 2016, there were 7,819 perpetrators who were either troop leaders or volunteers, believed to have abused at least 12,254 victims.
The Boy Scouts has confirmed the existence of the files, indicating they were used to ensure the group never knowingly allowed a sexual predator access to youths in its organization. However, the growing litigation over prior failures to protect children may now threaten the future of the organization, which was founded in 1910.
The New Jersey statute of limitations law is similar to one which went into effect in New York this summer, which has already resulted in about 500 child sex abuse lawsuits, many filed against the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.
As media attention has focused on the long history of sexual abuse problems in the Boy Scouts, Catholic Church and other organizations that have actively covered up known and credible allegations for decades, a number of states have introduced new legislation designed to extend the statute of limitations for individuals to bring claims for prior abuse.