INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An Indiana man tells FOX59 he plans to sue the Boys Scouts of America now that a new legal window has opened.
Beairshelle Edmé sat down one-on-one with him to learn what's next in his fight for justice.
He tells Edmé he's choosing to stay anonymous as John Doe because this is one of the most intimate details of his life.
"It was a regional director and he took an interest in me," he recalled. "He started seeing me a lot, invited me to sleep in his tent with him and then things crossed the line."
Doe says he was abused multiple times by two different Boy Scout leaders in Arkansas sometime between 1974 and 1978.
"You're 12 years old, a lot of sexual changes and you're starting to become a sexual human being, and I think it's all confusing time for a kid," he explained.
Doe says for two to three years, he was sexually abused by one scout leader. He claims another inappropriately touched him a few times.
"And so I, like I assume many victims, kept it to myself and then at some point, as I matured, said this isn't right," the former boy scout recalled.
Thirteen years later, he says for the first time he confided in someone, but it was past the state's statute of limitations.
"I mean, it angers me that I was put into a situation with an adult that may or may not have had red flags around them with the Boy Scouts," he said.
Now, decades later, he plans to sue the organization.
A recently passed law in New Jersey will allow lawsuits, starting December 1, from any Boy Scout member in the U.S. who claims they were abused.
The organization was headquartered in the state for at least 25 years.
"My client, in this instance, was abused by two different scouting members and there is evidence showing that one of the two perpetrators had a prior report of abuse of another camper- or scout, I should say," explained Steven Reich, an attorney with Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala Law Firm, representing alleged victims. "And then the second perpetrator was convicted of child abuse. So in at least one of the two, they (Boy Scouts of America) were aware of another abuse victim."
Reich and his law firm have more than 200 cases against the Boy Scouts of America, who in a statement told FOX59, "Consistent with our commitment to protecting Scouts and upholding our values as an organization, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) strongly supports efforts to ensure that anyone who commits sexual abuse is held accountable."
But BSA also said, "We do, however, have concerns with reforms that impose retroactive liability on organizations that did not have actual knowledge of the specific misconduct underlying an allegation of abuse..."
"Many times, we have heard that defense that they didn't have knowledge, only to find out as we've gotten into the cases, as we've taken deposition, as we've gathered documents that in fact, they did have knowledge, and so having that denial or defense doesn’t surprise me," Reich explained.
Doe tells FOX59 all he wants is for the Boy Scouts of America to truly hold leaders accountable.
"I want to believe that, but to be honest, I don't see it through their actions," he said.
BSA also said in its statement to FOX59, "We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement."
The organization also explained it now has a multi-layered process of safeguards that serve as barriers to abuse, including:
- Ongoing mandatory youth protection education for all volunteers, parents, and Scouts;
- A leader selection process that includes criminal background checks and other screening efforts;
- A leadership policy which requires at least two youth-protection trained adults be present with youth at all times and prohibits one-on-one situations where adults would have any interactions alone with children – either in person, online, or via text;
- Prompt mandatory reporting to law enforcement of any allegation or suspicion of abuse;
- A 24/7 Scouts First Helpline (1-844-SCOUTS1) and email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) to access counseling and help needed to report any suspected abuse or inappropriate behavior; and
- The Volunteer Screening Database – a tool the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for all youth-serving organizations – to bar individuals that should not be working with children from joining our programs."