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Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy amid sex abuse scandal

The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy, with officials saying the move is the only way they can deal with the growing number of sexual abuse lawsuits and still maintain scouting programs for its current members. But, as John Yang reports, losing the chance to bring alleged perpetrators to justice is a bitter pill for former members who were abused as Scouts.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Officials with the Boy Scouts of America say that their bankruptcy filing early today is the only way they can deal with a growing number of sexual abuse lawsuits and still maintain Scouting programs for its current members.

    But, as John Yang reports, it's a bitter pill for former members who were abused as young Scouts.

  • John Yang:

    Growing up in Florida, Juan Carlos Rivera loved being a Boy Scout.

  • Juan Carlos Rivera:

    I started to just learn everything about Scouting, camping and do the merit badges. Whatever Scouting entailed, I was all over it, because I liked it. It was fun.

  • John Yang:

    By the time he was a young teen, he was a Life Scout, the second-highest rank, and was taking art lessons from an assistant to the Scoutmaster.

  • Juan Carlos Rivera:

    And then one day, he summoned me to go upstairs in the house to a bedroom. And that's when the incident took place. That's when everything changed.

  • John Yang:

    Rivera says that was the day he lost interest in Scouting and quit. For 20 years, he never told anyone why. He had been molested.

    Now he's suing the Boy Scouts of America and is telling his story publicly for the first time.

  • Juan Carlos Rivera:

    It angers me that it happened, because it was a part of my childhood that should have been innocent. You know, I didn't seek it. It just happened.

  • John Yang:

    Rivera's case is among about 2,000 collected by an alliance of lawyers called Abused in Scouting. They say each week brings as many as 70 new claims. The oldest client is 93 years old, the youngest, 8.

    Timothy Kosnoff is one of the attorneys.

  • Timothy Kosnoff:

    More than 95 percent of them are identifying perpetrators that have never previously been identified. So, it's an amazing act of civic responsibility to come forward. Most of these men have never disclosed this abuse to anyone.

  • John Yang:

    In a statement, Scouts CEO Roger Mosby said the organization "sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting." He said the Boy Scouts want to use bankruptcy to create a fund that will provide equitable compensation to all victims.

    The organization's most recent IRS filing lists assets of $1.4 billion, including land for camping and hiking. The Scouts are asking the bankruptcy court to halt existing lawsuits and set a deadline for new complaints.

  • Timothy Kosnoff:

    While it's unfortunate that these men probably won't get their day in court, or this will be their day in court, at least this means that we're moving forward, and these men will get compensation and closure.

  • John Yang:

    The Scouts follow more than 20 individual Catholic dioceses and religious orders and USA Gymnastics in turning to bankruptcy in the face of sex-abuse lawsuits.

    Allegations of abuse in the Boy Scouts go back decades. In 1935, The New York Times reported on an internal red flag list of Scout leaders expelled for moral perversion.

    Last year, testimony in an unrelated court case revealed Boy Scout files from 1944 to 2016, listing nearly 8,000 men believed to have abused more than 12,000 children.

    Attorney Jeff Anderson discussed the disclosure on the "NewsHour."

  • Jeff Anderson:

    We have known they have been harboring offenders and keeping these files. We didn't have the precise number until we got it from the expert on the witness stand.

  • John Yang:

    Most of the names have never been made public. In 2012, an Oregon court unsealed documents in a sex abuse case that identified more than 1,200 Scouting volunteers accused of molesting young boys between 1960 and 1991.

  • Kelly Clark:

    These are files that document the history of allegations of abuse in Scouting and how the Boy Scouts responded to those allegations.

  • John Yang:

    Legal and financial pressures on the Scouts increased last year, when more than 20 states enacted laws changing the statutes of limitations for abuse cases.

  • Mike Reck:

    This new brings out information, exposure and accountability that these institutions have been unable and incapable of doing.

  • John Yang:

    Juan Carlos Rivera, now 53, never confronted his abuser and doesn't know where he is now. He still struggles with what happened to him that day nearly four decades ago. He says the Boy Scouts of America should worry more about that than its financial future.

  • Juan Carlos Rivera:

    They need to man up and do the right thing.

    I understand that they want to protect their assets. That's fine. But they need to put themselves in the positions of the people that were abused. Money is OK, but the trauma that abused people have, that's lifetime. That never, ever goes away.

  • John Yang:

    Abuse allegedly suffered in a program whose stated mission is to teach young people ethical and moral values.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang in Washington.

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