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Lawsuits & Litigation

Boy Scouts Face Another Sex Abuse Lawsuit, This Time in Federal Court

— December 17, 2019

One plaintiff says he was so regularly abused that he learned to wash blood stains out of his underwear.

The Boy Scouts are expected to face another sex abuse lawsuit in January.

The complaint will be the first to have been filed in federal court. The lawsuit is backed by at least a dozen plaintiffs, all of whom say the Boy Scouts failed to provide a safe environment for its young charges. Furthermore, the suit states that the organization actively covered up corroborated claims of abuse.

The New York Daily News shares the story of Johnny Austin, one of the suit’s leading plaintiffs.

Austin, says the Daily News, claims to have been repeatedly abused by a former Cub Scout leader in Harbor Township, New Jersey. The memories remain vivid—Austin says that, 40 years later, he can still “remember the smell of whiskey” on the volunteer pack leader’s breath.

So frequent was the abuse, says Austin, that he developed a particular system for washing blood stains out of his underwear. He’d douse his garments with hydrogen peroxide, then rinse the chemicals out with soap.

Austin says he’d just wanted to hide the evidence—and that fighting back wouldn’t have been an option, even if the thought may have been appealing.

“There was no way I could have fought back,” Austin said. “If I fought back, it would’ve been a joke. I never felt more alone in my entire life.”

Austin, along with the suit’s other participants, hope that court can provide one avenue for recompense. Together, they’re represented by a firm called Abused by Scouting, formed in February to address abuse claims.

Collection of Boy Scouts badges. Image via PublicDomainPictures/user:Junior Libby. Public domain.

However, the Boy Scouts may be on the verge of bankruptcy. As the New York Daily News notes, a potential bankruptcy could complicate the ordinary claims process. If the Boy Scouts does declare bankruptcy, victims like Austin—and thousands of others—would have a relatively narrow window of time in which they could enter claims and receive financial recompense.

“We’ve got clients from every state, and we have abuse that was committed in 49 of the 50 states,” said Abused by Scouting attorney Tim Kosnoff. “And that’s still going to be fraction by the time the claims bar deadline runs out.”

Kosnoff told the Daily News that the firm is already handling about 2,000 clients.

“We’re encouraging men to break their silence, come forward, protect today’s children by identifying these abusers,” Kosnoff said.

And for many, that silence has led to life-long trauma. Austin, too, told the Daily News the abuse led him to attempt suicide twice.

“I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger and it took out a nice portion of my head,” he said. “When I shave my head, you can see the scars.

“A part of it was eating at me, but I just never addressed it.”

Austin said he was inspired to come forward after seeing an Abused by Scouting advertisement on T.V.

“For over 40 years, I’ve buried this stuff so deep I don’t even acknowledge it, and now over 40 years later, it shows up?” he asked. “I couldn’t dial that phone fast enough.”

Legal Reader received the following statement from BSA after the publication of this story.

Attributable to the Boy Scouts of America

First and foremost, we care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our program 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  the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement. 

The BSA  has taken significant steps over many years to ensure that we respond aggressively and effectively to reports of sexual abuse. We believe victims and  remove individuals based on only allegations of inappropriate behavior.  We recognize, however, that there were some instances in our organization’s history when cases were not addressed in a manner consistent with our commitment to protect Scouts, the values of our organization, and the procedures we have in place today. 

Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in our Scouting programs – it is our top priority. The BSA has a multi-layered process of safeguards informed by experts, including the following, all of which act as barriers to abuse: a leadership policy that requires at least two youth-protection trained adults be present with youth at all times and bans one-on-one situations where adults would have any interactions alone with children – either in person, online, or via text; a thorough screening process for adult leaders and staff including criminal background checks, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse.

The BSA also offers a 24/7 Scouts First Helpline (1-844-726-8871) and email contact address ( to access counseling and help needed to report any suspected abuse or inappropriate behavior.

We steadfastly believe that one incident of abuse is one too many and we are continually improving all of our policies to prevent abuse. This is precisely why we fully support and advocate for the creation of a national registry overseen by a governmental entity, similar to the national sex offender registry, of those who are suspected of child abuse or inappropriate behavior with a child, thus allowing all youth-serving organizations to share and access such information. We call upon Congress and other youth- serving organizations to support this initiative.  

For more information about the BSA’s youth protection policies, please visit:

Regarding a Potential Financial Restructuring:

The Boy Scouts of America is working with experts and exploring all options available so we can live up to our social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting, while also ensuring that we carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities through our programs. No decisions have been made and we continue to fully meet our financial obligations to our vendors, creditors and other stakeholders.


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