Even though they’re facing a wave of lawsuits, B.S.A. leadership says they’ve seen a drastic decline in abuse allegations since the 1970s and 80s.
The Boy Scouts of America are using animation and cartoons to bolster sex abuse awareness among Cub Scouts across the nation.
The Associated Press reports that the move comes as the BSA faces extensive litigation and numerous allegations of decades-old abuse.
While the organization claims to have received few complaints in recent years, the animations will be shown to upwards of 1.2 million scouts. With a target audience ranging from kindergartners to middle-schoolers, the six-video series teaches kids to recognize ‘potentially abusive behavior.’
According to the A.P., the series also endeavors to provide children avenues to escape abuse if and when they’re ever confronted by it.
The new steps for child protection are a counter to legal developments: several states have enacted laws making it easier for victims of sex abuse to file legal claims outside the regular statute of limitations, or are planning to.
“Many of the men are from New York,” TIME Magazine writes, “which this year adjusted its restrictive statute-of-limitations law. The changes allow victims of long-ago abuse to sue for damages during a one-year window starting in August. New Jersey enacted a similar law this month. California is on track to follow suit.”
Some victims’ attorneys claim the Boy Scouts could be liable for more than abuse—they say recently-issued press releases claiming that organization “never knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with you” are inaccurate.
The Boy Scouts have acknowledged that revamped laws could pose a financial threat, even though most recently-reported abuse cases from within the group date back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s. One expert, hired by the BSA, identified 7,819 suspected abusers over an unspecified time period, as well as 12,254 victims.
But the Boy Scouts say the numbers and trend are dated and that times have changed for the better. That’s because, the Associated Press reports, there were only five known abuse victims in 2018, out of 2.2 million youth members.
The Boy Scouts say the drop-off is due to the implementation of sweeping new policies, including criminal background checks for volunteers and enhanced training.
BSA leaders hope the videos can complement training and help parents have conversations with their kids that might otherwise be difficult to have.
“Parents have told me they’re having these conversations with their kids, and they felt the videos would help them have a better, richer conversation,” said BSA youth protection director, Mike Johnson. “The kids are engaged […] There’s some heavy topics discussed in a child-specific way.”
Older Boy Scout videos, notes the A.P., usually featured live actors. Johnson, a former police officer, says there’s a difference in how kids react to the two mediums.
“The power and magic of animation, and its ability to communicate with kids—I underestimated it,” Johnson said.