From the most recent COVID-19 stats to the upcoming holiday, last week’s news cycle featured a lot of the same old, same old. Of course, it’s constantly changing and shifting based on who said what, or what moron decided to engage in a public display of jackassery. So how does the heartbreaking news about approximately 60,000 victims of sexual abuse finally reaching a settlement with Boy Scouts of America (BSA) seem to be only a minor blip on the radar? Let’s go ahead and fix that shit right now and talk about it.
According to an article with AP News, it was announced that in this settlement, victims would receive about $850 million from BSA.
The news was shocking and jarring, yet not covered in a way that does the victims any justice. Or, more specifically, it wasn’t covered in a way that holds the perpetrators — excuse me, pedophiles and volunteers who helped cover up these types of scandals for decades — accountable. No, that was not a typo — you read it right. Decades, y’all. As far back as the 1940s, allegations of sexual abuse have been reported to the Boy Scouts. And if there is one obvious thing, BSA is much more committed to covering up their scandals than putting measures in place to stop them from happening in the first place. But let’s back up a minute and talk about how we got here, in case you didn’t know.
In 2010, the Boy Scouts of America lost a significant battle in court and as a result, were ordered to pay 18.5 million to a victim of sexual abuse. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last, as lawsuits piled up over the years. Eventually, they hit a breaking point. The only choice that remained was to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
How did they get to this point, you may ask? Well, according to a story covered in the LA Times, BSA has been tracking ineligible volunteers since 1919. And when I say tracking, I use the term incredibly loosely. On several occasions, at least 125 (if anyone is counting) volunteers involved with different troops were allowed to continue their contact with children they were abusing after they were first accused. What in the actual fuck? Sound much like anything you’ve heard before? Catholic church, I’m looking at you. What is up with these institutions failing to protect the very communities they are meant to serve?
Now that we are all caught up, back to this headline-making settlement. It’s one of the most significant settlements related to sexual abuse to date. Some lawyers say this settlement was reasonable (read: as the Boy Scouts lawyers), while others say it’s a travesty. Truthfully, how can you not agree with the latter? There is absolutely no amount of money that can right the wrongs that have been done to these men.
The kind of trauma, mental, and emotional health issues that come with surviving sexual abuse will live with them for the rest of their days. A survivor and claimant in the settlement expressed his feelings about what he is going through. “What happened to us is a scar, and that is never going to go away,” said Doug Kennedy. For some, since these allegations date back decades, the closest thing to justice for them will be this financial reckoning.
There is so much stigma around sexual abuse, even more so for men. Is that why this story has failed to be a talking point for so many? The hard truth is that the less sexual abuse of Boy Scouts is talked about by news outlets or reporters, the less chance it has to make everyone who knows about what went on uncomfortable. But guess what, it isn’t about how comfortable this makes us; it’s about the victims seeking justice. As hard as it is to hear survivors of sexual abuse speak about their experience, it is 100 times harder for them to talk about it and relive it. Make sure to hold space for their stories and spread the word.
What is equally frustrating is how the news of the settlement is being covered. Much of the news goes to great lengths to talk to us about the numbers.
How many survivors of abuse have come forward.
How much Boy Scouts will pay out.
But another question that needs to be answered is HOW are the Boy Scouts ensuring this never happens again? What are they doing to protect their underage members, who trust and look up to their troop leaders and other volunteers? How do we make young members and their parents comfortable about letting their children participate in this time-honored tradition?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying gather your pitchforks and cancel the Boy Scouts. There have been many people who have had positive, impactful experiences during their time with the organization. From both my brothers to cousins, nephews, and even one of my Girl Scouts who jumped ship to join, Boy Scouts itself isn’t the problem — it’s the people who are running the program.
Keep the Christmas wreath and popcorn fundraising sales. Keep the pinewood derbies and other activities that teach life skills. But above all of that, make sure you are keeping your Boy Scouts safe. Never again will the higher-ups who run the show be able to use the excuse we didn’t know.