The Boy Scouts of America has a long record of helping boys develop leadership and life skills that allow them to grow into successful young men. However, for all the good it has done, the Boy Scouts also has some questionable marks on its record. Far too many Scouts have been sexually abused by adult leaders in the organization.
One only needs to look to the Boy Scouts' recently released "perversion files" to see just how pervasive the problem of sexual abuse really is.
Beginning in the 1920s, the Boy Scouts started keeping files of known abusers, ostensibly in an attempt to prevent them from rejoining the Scouts and abusing more children. However, the files also fostered a sort of institutional secrecy — suspected abusers were rarely turned over to law enforcement, and evidence shows that in many cases, the Boy Scouts made active efforts to keep claims of abuse below the radar.
The Boy Scouts released a cache of these "perversion files" in October 2012, after they were ordered to do so by the Oregon Supreme Court. The files, which date from 1965 to 1985, document accusations of abuse against more than 1,200 scout leaders. An additional set of files were released in 2011 as the result of legal action in California. They document claims of abuse against nearly 1,900 scout leaders.
Of all of the states represented in the October release, Illinois had the sixth-highest number of cases. Among those cases were claims against 20 Chicago-area scout leaders and nine from the Rockford area. Although some of the abusers were eventually prosecuted and incarcerated, others escaped detection.
The Rights of Illinois Sexual Abuse Victims
No child should ever have to suffer the horrors of abuse. All too often, childhood sexual abuse leaves emotional and psychological scars that never heal. The pain of the abuse is further compounded when it is perpetrated by someone who is supposed to be an authority figure and role model.
Many abuse victims feel silenced by the shame of their experience. If you were sexually abused as a child, know that it is not your fault. You are a victim, and the person who abused you is a criminal. Also know that you have a right to make your abuser take responsibility for his or her actions.
In many cases, victims of sexual abuse are able to bring civil claims against their abusers. In addition to recovering financial compensation for the harms that have been done, these cases can help prevent the abusers from targeting other children. Civil claims are an option even if criminal charges were never filed.
Furthermore, in some cases, abuse victims may be able to take action against organization — like the Boy Scouts, churches or schools — that allowed the abuse to occur.
Illinois law limits the time that an abuse victim has to bring a claim, though the restrictions are not as strict as they once were. If you or a loved one has been the victim of childhood sexual abuse, a Chicago sexual abuse lawyer can help you understand your options.