ASK LLP represents sexual abuse survivors in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) bankruptcy. Many clients express the following dilemma to me. They were sexually abused in scouting. And it was one of the worst experiences of their life, often causing decades of pain, ruined relationships, substance abuse, and worse. So they want justice. They want to hold the institution that hurt them accountable. But at the same time, they respect scouting. They learned valuable lessons about self-sufficiency and survival there. They made lifelong friends there.
They are torn. They want justice for the horrible wrong they endured. But they don’t want to destroy the institution that allowed them to be abused. This makes them feel guilty and confused.
As part of the BSA’s plan of reorganization, BSA has committed to improving scouting by elevating a sexual abuse survivor to the Board of Directors, recommending that their local councils do the same, and implementing further safe-scouting procedures. BSA is making these improvements because thousands of sexual abuse survivors were brave enough to come forward. The hope is that the next generation will have the opportunity to benefit from scoutings’ teachings without the horror of sexual abuse.
This case taught me that survivors don’t have to choose between coming forward and ruining the institution or staying silent and leaving it intact. They can help fix the institution by coming forward. So, to survivors out there wrestling with the guilt of wanting to stand up for themselves but not wanting to destroy the institution they may still respect—that is a false choice. When you are ready, come forward, speak your truth, and help fix the institution for future generations.