Over the past few decades, more and more large organizations have been accused of allowing child sexual abuse to happen under their watch. From the Roman Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts of America, there are continued allegations that these organizations not only did not protect the children in their midst from sexual abuse, they were aware that is was happening yet did nothing to stop it. When signs and suspicions of abuse are ignored, these organizations are justifiable targeted for lawsuits by the victims and often pay the price.
Roman Catholic Church Cases
One of the most notorious child sex abuse scandals and the heaviest paid damages have come from abuse from priests of the Roman Catholic Church. It is estimated that over $2 billion has been spent in settlements, including a large settlement in Los Angles with an alleged 500 victims and $660 million awarded in damages in 2007. Several dioceses filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy since 2004 to protect themselves from the large settlements being awarded due to the sexual child abuse in their parishes.
In a study done on the sexual abuse problem within the U.S. Catholic Churches in 2002 referred to as the John Jay Report, there were staggering numbers of priests’ accused of abuse. Over a 52-year period, there were over 11,000 allegations involving only 4,392 priests. Of all of these allegations, only 3% of the priests were convicted and only 2% received prison sentences. What made these numbers so alarming was not just that the abuse had happened by thousands of trusted members of the clergy, but that it was allowed to continue even after reports and allegations were made.
Boy Scouts of America
The cases being filed against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are still in progress. There have been at least 60 settlements of sexual abuse lawsuits and even one as large as $18.5 million in punitive damages in 2010 in Oregon. This landmark case also brought forward to the public files of reported abuse that the BSA had hid from the public for over 50 years. In October 2012 these files were posted online for everyone to see, listing 14,500 pages of reports appropriately nick-named the perversion files.
What is the most concerning about both the BSA and the Roman Catholic Church cases is that the abuse was reported thousands of times yet little if anything was done to stop it. In both organizations, abusers were removed from one town or state and allowed to continue in another parish or scout group. Police were not notified and the allegations were quietly swept under the rug. Decades of abuse were allowed to continue and only when confronted with literally billions of dollars in lawsuits, did either organization change their policies on how they handled allegations of child sexual abuse.
The lesson that needs to be learned by all organizations that have children under their care is to take signs and suspicions of child abuse seriously. The truth will eventually come out and if they are found negligent of protecting those children from harm, they will be held liable. It is better to admit that the abuse happened but have it stopped as soon as possible then to try to save face. The cost will be much greater if the abuse is allowed to continue, both to the children victims and to the organizations bank account down the road.