As Boy Scouts of America Seek Bankruptcy Protection, An Alleged Victim Implores Others to Step Forward
The Boy Scouts of America face hundreds of lawsuits that include thousands of abuse claims.
The Boy Scouts of America, facing an avalanche of lawsuits and the horrifying accusations of children being sexually abused, has filed for protection under federal bankruptcy laws.
The 110-year-old institution says it will use Chapter 11 regulations, which freeze all lawsuits against the national organization, to establish a trust that will pay compensation to scouts who say they were raped, fondled and forced to perform oral sex. Meanwhile, scouting activities will continue across the country.
Rob Simandle is one of those accusers.
The 52-year-old New York business owner told InsideEdition.com he was not completely surprised by this week's court filing in Delaware. "They see this wave coming and they're trying to get out from under it," he said. "All the lies are going to come back to them. They've documented themselves into this hole with all the records they kept."
In a meticulously worded statement to victims of abuse, the Boy Scouts and National Chair Jim Turley issued an apology to those assaulted by troop scouts and leaders.
"I am outraged that individuals took advantage of our programs to commit these heinous acts," the open letter reads. "I am also outraged that there were times when volunteers and employees ignored our procedures or forgave transgressions that are unforgivable. In some cases, this led to tragic acts of abuse. While those instances were limited, they mean we didn't do enough to protect the children in our care — to protect you.
"On behalf of myself and the entire Scouting community: I am sorry. I am devastated that there were times in the past when we failed the very children we were supposed to protect."
For Simandle, and others like him, the words are far too little, and far too late.
"It's just a way for them to avoid saying what really happened," Simandle said of the bankruptcy filing. "If it goes through, this is a white screen, both financially and in terms of responsibility. It's been going on for years."
Simandle's story of abuse dates to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he was a Boy Scout in upstate New York, he said. Between the ages of 13 and 15, he said, he was molested by two assistant scout leaders. One liked to order his young charges to perform marching drills in their underwear, Simandle said. Then the adult would spank those who messed up, he said.
The other would give beer and drugs to scouts during camping trips, Simandle said. "And he would end up in my tent. There was oral sex and anal sex," Simandle said matter-of-factly.
Simandle says he and another boy told their parents about the spanking sessions. They reported their children's accounts to scout masters, who removed the man from the troop, Simandle said. But that wasn't the end of the assistant scout leader's association with the organization, confidential Boy Scouts of America records would later reveal, according to documents unearthed by attorneys representing alleged victims and viewed by InsideEdition.com.
The man went from troop to troop, and was eventually arrested on Long Island, where he was charged with molesting and coercing boys, some of them scouts. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation. He is now a registered sex offender in the state of New York.
Simandle waited a long time before blowing the whistle on the scout leader who raped him, he said. In 2017, he sent a letter to the local scouts council describing what happened, he said. "I didn't tell anyone about that for quite a long time." It was simply too much, he said. The guilt, the shame and the ugliness of it took him years to process.
"I've been in therapy for, shoot, almost 25 years. A long time," Simandle said, noting he never received an answer to his letter.
There are more than 300 lawsuits pending against the Boy Scouts of America, detailing abuse claims that go back decades and represent nearly 2,000 former scouts.
The national council has assets estimated at more than $1 billion; its local councils and associated nonprofits have another estimated $3 billion in holdings such as campgrounds and forest land.
The number of alleged victims coming forward has significantly increased since heavily populated states including New York and California recently passed "lookback window" laws that allow those who say they were abused to sue now matter how long ago the abuse allegedly occurred.
Attorneys representing former scouts say the national council's bankruptcy filing is a way to protect itself from the tidal wave of legal claims bearing down on of the country's largest youth organizations, with a membership of about 2.3 million youngsters.
Under bankruptcy protection, no new lawsuits can be filed against the Boy Scouts of America. The plaintiffs' monetary claims must be transferred to a federal bankruptcy judge, who will preside over legal wrangling to identify the organization's assets and redistribute them among the alleged victims.
Simandle pointed to another institution he said has employed the same strategy.
"The Catholic Church is still going and they had dioceses that went bankrupt and they're still operating," he said. More than 20 Roman Catholic dioceses in the country have filed for bankruptcy, faced with staggering claims of childhood sexual
It also means an open court will not hear the anguished claims of grown men who still weep at recalling what was done to them, the victims' lawyers say.
"We're concerned that the Boy Scouts of America will try to make a settlement with these people and then continue to do things [in] secret," said Jason Amala, an attorney representing Simandle in his claim against the organization. "And that means Rob and people like him won't see [in court] what happened to them and why [and] how it happened."
Simandle says scout victims should keep stepping up. "Anybody that hasn't, come forward. It's for your mental health, not financial."
Coming forward is the first step in healing oneself, he said. Trying to keep the lid on wasn't working. "I'm sure that's why I started drinking back then. Relationships, I've never been married. No kids. Whether it's social anxiety or fear, I don't know. Whether it was shame or self-hatred ... Maybe I didn't want to see myself happy. It's an ugly cycle."
Talking eases the weight he carries. "It helps my sanity. If I'm speaking to you, and others see it, I hope it helps them."
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