ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Boy Scouts of America's own records show that more than 12,000 children have been sexually assaulted while participating in Scouting programs. The documents came to light through court testimony given by a researcher the Scouts had hired to do an internal review. The records reveal allegations against thousands of Scout leaders, allegations that date from the 1940s. With such a huge number of victims, the organization could be facing bankruptcy. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports from Dallas.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: The Boy Scouts of America has had a secret file of sexually abusive Scout leaders that goes back nearly a hundred years. But it's only been in the last decade or so that the current and horrifying scale of abuse began to emerge. This week, attorney Jeff Anderson released sworn testimony from an expert hired by the Boy Scouts who reviewed the organization's sexual abuse files. They showed 12,254 boys were abused by nearly 8,000 Scout leaders. Here's Anderson at a press conference describing what he termed the Boy Scouts' perversion files.
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JEFF ANDERSON: The bad news is this is far from a full disclosure of what the Boy Scouts actually knew and is reflected in all the files because all the files have not been excavated. But this information needs to be known. And we could not wait to sound the alarm and make this information now known.
GOODWYN: Anderson said that, as disturbing as the figures are, the reality that only the Boy Scouts of America knows who these alleged perpetrators are is just as distressing.
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ANDERSON: The fact is that the Boy Scouts of America have never actually released these names in any form that can be known to the public. And they may have removed them from Scouting. They may have kept them in their perversion files. But they never alerted the community.
GOODWYN: The Boy Scouts have more than 2 million Scouts, and hundreds of victims are expected to file suit. One prominent sexual abuse attorney has already signed more than 180 clients. The Scouts have extensive landholdings across the country where members hike, camp and play. The prospect that the Boy Scouts may declare bankruptcy has victims and their lawyers crying foul, arguing that would end up shortchanging sexual abuse victims. In a press call, Boy Scouts of America Chief Executive Michael Surbaugh offered an apology.
MICHAEL SURBAUGH: I want to reiterate our steadfast support for victims of abuse. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, and we pay for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice. And we encourage them to come forward.
GOODWYN: A bankruptcy filing could allow the 109-year-old organization to continue operating by shielding its assets and information. The Boy Scouts filed suit last year against half a dozen of its own insurers for refusing to cover its sexual abuse legal liabilities. The insurers respond that the Boy Scouts' coverage is invalidated because the Scouts neglected to take meaningful precautionary actions. Those cases are pending. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.