Recent allegations of sexual abuse committed by Boy Scout leaders have shaken parents’ and former Scouts’ faith in the organization. According to national reporting, a researcher who conducted an internal investigation for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) found BSA’s “own records show that more than 12,000 children have been sexually assaulted while participating in the organization’s programs,” and that allegations were made against thousands of Scout leaders from as far back as the 1940s. BSA chief executive Michael Surbaugh has voiced the organization’s “steadfast support for victims of abuse” and has urged victims to come forward.
Scouting has a long history in Chicago, with numerous scouting councils and camps dotting the state. Tens of thousands of boys and young men have participated in BSA programs over the years.
The compassionate attorneys at Abels & Annes understand how difficult it can be for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to step forward, particularly under the glare of public attention. We are here to help. If you have questions about legal accountability for childhood sexual abuse related to Scouting, contact us today to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.
Accountability for Childhood Sexual Abuse
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Chicago have options for holding their abusers accountable. There is no correct way for them to proceed. Confronting childhood sexual abuse takes immense courage and strength. At Abels & Annes, we stand ready to do whatever we can to help brave survivors tell their stories on their own terms.
One of the ways survivors of childhood sexual abuse can hold abusers accountable is through civil legal action. In fact, according to the reporting above, the most recent revelations about BSA’s records came to light through a lawsuit. Civil litigation gives survivors powerful tools to uncover sometimes long-hidden facts about the harm done to them. Through this process, they have the prospect of confronting abuse and recovering compensation and other remedies that can help them mend from their trauma.
Illinois law permits survivors of sexual to take legal action against both abusers and anyone with potential legal liability for enabling or failing to prevent abuse.
Potential Legal Remedies for Childhood Sexual Abuse
In a civil lawsuit against an abuser or others who enabled abuse, survivors may seek damages to compensate for the physical, emotional, and other damage the abuse caused. Of course, no amount of money will erase the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. But it can help survivors pay for the support they need, as well as provide them with a measure of justice.
Taking legal action against abusers and abuse enablers can also help to prevent future child sexual abuse. Monetary damages and negative publicity inflict a heavy cost on organizations responsible for failing to prevent abuse, giving them incentives to reform (as we have seen, for example, in the case of allegations against clergy). Courts also have the ability to order defendants to take proactive measures against abuse or face further sanctions. Some civil lawsuits may also generate evidence that the state’s attorney could use to prosecute abusers criminally.
The outcome of a lawsuit is never guaranteed, of course, which can make the decision to proceed with one difficult for survivors who worry about reliving their trauma in public forums. At Abels & Annes, we never pressure any client to take legal steps that make them uncomfortable. Our mission, instead, is to provide sound, compassionate legal advice and to counsel our clients in making the decisions most helpful to them.
The Extended Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse in Chicago
Illinois law protects the rights of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, in part, by giving them an extended period of time to take legal action for damages. Normally, a person injured by another in Chicago must file a claim within a relatively short statute of limitations period that begins to run on the date of the injury. Failing to file a claim within that period results in the claim expiring and the victim losing the right to compensation.
In cases of childhood sexual abuse, however, Illinois law allows a survivor to file suit:
- Within 20 years of turning 18 years of age; or
- Within 20 years of the date the person abused discovers or through the use of reasonable diligence should discover both (i) that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and (ii) that the injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse.
Importantly, state law helps to give survivors the time they may need to process their trauma without suffering a loss of legal rights. Not only does the law gives victims time to discover the existence of abuse through reasonable diligence, but it also makes a strong distinction between the knowledge that abuse occurred and awareness of the injury the abuse caused. Specifically, “knowledge of the abuse does not constitute discovery of the injury or the causal relationship between any later-discovered injury and the abuse.”
As a result of this provision, childhood sexual abuse survivors who first uncover the wounds of trauma even late in adulthood may still have the right to seek legal relief. At Abels & Annes, we encourage anyone who has questions about taking legal action for damages related to childhood sexual abuse not to assume their claims expired long ago. In many cases, those survivors may still have the option to pursue compensation.
Chicago Childhood Sexual Abuse Attorneys
As a law firm, Abels & Annes commits the full measure of its resources and know-how to serve the legal interests of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, no matter how or when the abuse occurred. We invite anyone who suffered sexual abuse in connection with their participation in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, or any other Scouting activity to contact us with any questions they may have about their rights to seek accountability under the law. A conversation with a member of our team is free, confidential, and comes with no obligation to move forward. You can reach us by phone at (312) 924-7575 or visit us online.