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Following the enactment of new laws in New York and New Jersey, which allow individuals additional time to file sexual abuse lawsuits, a rapidly growing number of claims are being pursued against the Boy Scouts of America, alleging scout leaders or other individuals associated with the organization molested or assaulted children.
Dozens of complaints have already been filed in New York’s Manhattan Supreme Court and Nassau County Supreme Court, after the state’s Child Victims Act went into effect last month, and several hundred additional claims are expected in the coming weeks and months.
Starting August 14, 2019, individuals sexually abused as children in New York have a one-year window to file claims against their abusers or organizations who enabled the conduct, extending the New York sexual abuse statute of limitations, regardless of when the conduct occurred, or the current age of the victim.
Similar legislation will extended the statute of limitations in New Jersey, where the Associated Press recently reported another 150 Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawsuits are expected to be filed in December 2019. New Jersey was location of the U.S. headquarters for the Boy Scouts of America for 25 years, up until 1978.
Each of the lawsuits raise similar allegations, involving claims that children were abused mainly between the 1950s and 1980s, when the plaintiffs were exposed to sexual predators volunteering or working for the Boy Scouts.
The lawsuits also accuse the organization of hiding potential threats to children by keeping secret “perversion files” on those considered to be sexual predators who had worked with the organization.
According to those files, 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 that they were used to ensure the group never knowingly allowed a sexual predator access to youths in its organization. However, the swelling litigation over prior failures to protect children may now threaten the future of the organization, which was founded in 1910.
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.
The Child Victims Act was signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in February 2019, extending the statute of limitations for sex abuse claims in New York until the age of 55, and allowing criminal charges to be brought against an abuser until the victim is 28 years old. Those changes will come after the one-year grace period allowing the filing of any claims from any time expires next August.
In May 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law in the state, which also allows victims of child sexual abuse to file a lawsuit until they turn 55 years old, or within seven years after they realize the abuse has 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 sexual abuse lawsuit against individuals or organizations responsible for the conduct.