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Boy Scouts Initiate Background Checks: Is It Enough?

The Boys Scouts of America swear an oath to help other people at all times. However, the organization has not always done its best at helping its own young members. Many instances of sexual abuse by troop leaders and other adult chaperones have surfaced, and the concerns of parents of potential Boy Scouts have rightfully increased in recent years. Recently, former Boy Scouts filed 15 lawsuits in Chicago courts regarding sexual abuse of members of a Burbank, Illinois, troop.

The organization just announced one response to such concerns—increased background checks and additional requirements for adults who supervise overnight excursions. Before June 1, troop leaders and other registered volunteers had to undergo background checks and complete a training course before volunteering. Now, the Boy Scouts require background checks and training for any adult who is chaperoning a trip that lasts at least 72 hours, which includes parents of scouts on the excursion.

The training course is a one-hour online session about youth protection. It covers protecting minors from dangers such as sexual molestation, especially during overnight activities such as camping trips, which can get particularly high-risk. This requirement only applies to Boy Scout troops, however, and not to Cub Scouts, who are usually younger than 11.

Risks of Harm Still Exist

While the Boys Scouts organization appears to make efforts to better protect young members from sexual abuse, its track record of dealing with sexual abuse incidents is less than stellar. For example, while the organization’s policies require mandatory reporting of any suspected threats, injuries, or abuse of members to law enforcement, independent investigations discovered that hundreds of known or suspected cases of abuse were, in fact, never reported. Lack of reporting prevents awareness and education of the risks of sexual abuse, and it allows predators to have continued access to potential victims. An unenforced policy is not enough to protect children.

In addition, background checks do not necessarily keep predators out of the Boy Scout ranks. Many sexual predators that target children do not have criminal records. Even vetted adults require proper supervision when around children on overnight excursions.

Volunteers should receive training and educating on how to watch for signs of suspicious behavior or situations at high risk for sexual abuse and injuries. For example, no adult should ever be left alone with a child for an unreasonable period of time. Chaperones should also notice if other volunteers are giving a certain child particular attention or if their behavior crosses the line of regular social interaction between adults and children.

While a one-hour training course may help, it may not be nearly enough to keep volunteers as vigilant as they should be to prevent sexual abuse.

Overall, the Boy Scouts may take steps in the right direction, but parents should always understand that there is always a risk of harmful acts toward their children when participating in scouting or similar activities. Always question your child about the events of an excursion and look for any signs that something out of the ordinary may have occurred. Never hesitate to report suspicions and discuss any incidences of sexual misconduct with law enforcement authorities and an experienced attorney.

What if the Unimaginable Happens to Your Child?

If you learn that an adult sexually abused your child during a Boy Scout activity, you will naturally feel outraged and want justice. Reporting the incident to law enforcement can help to result in the arrest of the abuser, who may then face criminal charges. An offender who is convicted of a sex crime may receive a prison sentence and will need to register as a sex offender.

While a criminal conviction will punish the individual offender, the case will unfortunately do little to help your child and family recover from the harm you suffered. In many instances, you may seek additional justice by filing a civil claim—not only against the individual offender but also against the Boy Scouts of America if there was negligent conduct on its part.  An abuse victim should also undergo counseling with a trained professional.

The Boy Scouts organization has a legal duty to set and enforce policies and procedures to protect its members from sexual abuse and other preventable harm. When the organization fails to abide by this duty and a member does suffer harm, the Boy Scouts should be face full responsibility for any losses stemming from physical and mental injuries that result. Losses may include:

  • Medical bills for physical evaluations and treatments, including treatments for any sexually transmitted diseases
  • Financial costs of treatment for mental trauma and emotional injuries, which can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering of your child and long-term scarring

Taking on a large organization such as the Boys Scouts can intimidate anyone, especially since a defendant generally will not want to admit to liability. An organization may try to deny any negligence or may pressure victims into settling early in a case and confidentially, to prevent any news of the matter that may further hurt the organization’s reputation. Having an experienced sex abuse attorney on your side can ensure that the Boy Scouts are held fully liable and that a victim does not accept a settlement for less than what they truly deserve.

Contact a Chicago Injury Attorney Law Firm to Learn How We Can Help

When you entrust your child to adults and organizations, you should always expect they will remain safe—both physically and mentally. Nothing can reverse the lasting trauma and effects of child sexual abuse, but you can hold the parties who allowed the abuse to occur responsible. This can provide financial relief for your family, as well as knowledge that you held the organization accountable in addition to the individual abuser.

Child sexual abuse is a deeply personal and sensitive subject. It is difficult to address the subject of sexual abuse, but at Abels & Annes, P.C., our attorneys understand how to handle such situations with compassion, and we can ensure you that consultations remain completely confidential. Call (312) 924-7575 or contact us online for a free consultation today.