The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have reached an $850 million agreement with attorneys representing some 60,000 victims of child sex abuse.
Under a new plan expected to be filed Friday, the BSA’s 250-odd local councils would contribute $600 million into the fund for abuse victims. The BSA and local councils would be released from liability in return for their contributions to the victims’ fund.
Scout Executive and CEO of the Golden Spread Council #562, Brian Tobler, said in a statement Friday, in part: “The Golden Spread Council continues to communicate with national leadership via the Ad Hoc Committee of Local Councils and is collaborating with all parties to the BSA’s Chapter 11 case to find a solution that will appropriately fund a Trust to compensate survivors while also ensuring the future of Scouting. Importantly, we understand from both the national organization and the Ad Hoc Committee that the proposed agreement will not impact any pension benefits provided to current or former employees of the Golden Spread Council.”
When asked about the outcome of the settlement, Shelly Bohannon, the executive director of The Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center, had this to say, “I think for so many victims, it’s not the dollar amount that makes them feel better. What makes them feel better and helps them to heal is knowing that that person or persons are being held responsible and that someone believed what they had to say, took action, to stop this person harming others.”
Bohannon said everyone should be diligent about protecting children from this type of sexual abuse.
“We trust the people that we’re putting in place to work with children, which is what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to hire people that we trust, and we, you know, have criminal history checks. We have all of those precautions. However, a lot of people have access to children and continue to perpetrate against those children long before they’re ever found out. And children wait a long time to make that disclosure, and so that gives them a long time to have access to children,” Bohannon said.
“It’s the responsibility of all of the adults in the organization to watch out for what’s going on,” she continued. “Going to someone higher up and making that [inappropriate behavior] known to others, and if something doesn’t happen, then go to the next level and continue to do something. Because if someone doesn’t take that proactive step to protect the kids, then we continue in this cycle, where this person or people have that continued access to children.”
She said there are signs to watch for when it comes to the sexual abuse of children.
“It is a hard thing to recognize but if your child starts having different behaviors, and they are withdrawn, they don’t want to be a part of whatever this activity is, or this group is, we should be asking them, ‘Why? What’s going on? What’s the problem?’ Because it may not be the adult,” Bohannon said. “It may be another child, or it could be that it’s a separation issue from the parent. So, there’s a lot of factors going in there.”
Bohannon encouraged parents and other trusted adults to ask kids about their day and dig deeper when something does not seem right.
“Sometimes children aren’t going to tell until they’re removed from that situation, and they feel safe. If this is where you’re seeing these behaviors, we may need to move your child out of this activity and give them some time away, where they feel safe and be able to make that disclosure if there’s something to say,” she added.
Once an instance of abuse becomes clear, Bohannon said the first step must be making a report.
“That is how we stop this long-term, far-reaching abuse of children. So, someone needs to make that report so that we can start intervening for that child on a professional level and there’s counseling available,” Bohannon said, along with forensic interviews and the other services they provide. “And this, this is a trauma, that if we don’t deal with, it causes a lot of problems for the rest of their life.”
Bohannon said many people wait until adulthood to open up about abuse, but there are resources for them, too.
Click here for resources from Family Support Services of Amarillo.