NEW YORK (AP) — Facing a possible bankruptcy due to sex-abuse litigation, the Boy Scouts of America issued a new apology Tuesday to survivors of abuse and announced plans for expanded services to support them.
The Boy Scouts are teaming up in a five-year partnership with 1in6, a national nonprofit that provides various resources and support services to male survivors of sexual abuse. The organization’s name derives from studies concluding about one in six men in the U.S. experienced childhood sexual abuse.
The BSA said the partnership will enable 1in6 to expand its 24/7 web-based helpline chat service, which helps survivors connect quickly to a trained advocate for abuse victims.
The BSA declined to disclose if it was investing money in the partnership, or how much. It’s also unclear how much cash the organization has on hand to enter into significant ventures at a time when its finances are in turmoil.
The Boy Scouts recently mortgaged a pristine property in New Mexico to help secure a line of credit, with the vast tract of land being used as collateral amid a crush of sex-abuse lawsuits.
Lawyers representing hundreds of men who said they were abused as scouts are predicting the Boy Scouts will soon file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which potentially would provide a centralized, court-supervised process for handling claims while enabling the organization to remain in operation.
The organization’s finances have been strained by sex abuse settlements for several years, and the situation worsened after New York, Arizona, New Jersey and California enacted bills last year making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to file claims. Teams of lawyers across the U.S. have been signing up clients by the hundreds to join lawsuits against the BSA.
One of those lawyers, Seattle-based Mike Pfau, questioned whether the 1in6 partnership announcement was a “publicity attempt” linked to an impending bankruptcy declaration.
“Sadly, this is extraordinarily late in the game, particularly given the Boy Scouts knew that perpetrators had been infiltrating their ranks for 100 years,” Pfau said, referring to files of suspected molesters the BSA began compiling in the 1920s.
The BSA said the partnership will allow 1in6 to expand the number of online support groups for men who were sexually abused two to five times each week.
The organization said the new arrangement was expected to continue regardless of how it deals with its current financial crisis.
“We sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed in Scouting,” said Roger Mosby, the BSA’s president and CEO. “In addition to implementing strong policies to prevent abuse, we are dedicated to supporting victims when and how they need it.”
The BSA said it will not comment on “speculation and rumor,” but it has not ruled out the possibility of a bankruptcy filing.
One of Pfau’s clients, Virginia resident Ralph Morse, described the new partnership as “a step in the right direction.”
“But it certainly doesn’t compensate for anything that’s happened to survivors,” he said.
Morse is suing the BSA for abuse he allegedly suffered in the 1960s at the hands of a scoutmaster in upstate New York.
For years, the Boy Scouts have offered to fund in-person counseling for any current or former scout. Michael Johnson, the Boy Scouts youth protection officer, said he became convinced 1in6 could offer a broader range of survivor support after hearing it from an abuse victim, Jason Lee.
Lee, a 45-year-old software consultant in Atlanta, was abused by an assistant scoutmaster while in the Boy Scouts in Alabama. The molester, Charles Corley, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1995.