New York - Lawyers for dozens of sexually abused children on Tuesday released the names of 130 Boy Scout leaders in New York who have been accused of molesting boys in their care.
Detailing decades of unchecked abuse, with comparisons to the Catholic Church pedophile priest scandal, the attorneys said they plan to file multiple lawsuits against the nonprofit Boy Scouts of America organization, which, according to its website, prides itself in "youth protection" training.
At a Manhattan news conference, the lawyers said the 130 scout leaders from New York City and the Hudson Valley [in the state New York] area are among 7 000 Boy Scout leaders across the country.
The announcement was made in conjunction with lawyers in New Jersey who detailed similar Boy Scout abuse at a news conference in Newark. Lawyers there named another 50 alleged pedophile Boy Scout leaders.
"The alarming thing about this is not just the numbers," said Jeff Anderson, whose Manhattan law firm specializes in child sexual abuse cases. "The fact is that the Boy Scouts of America has never actually released these names in any form that can be known to the public. They may have removed them from scouting, they may have kept them in their perversion file but they never alerted the community."
Anderson called it a system of denial and cover-ups. He claims the Boy Scouts have files on child abusers within their ranks dating back to the 1940s.
"This is a real peril," Anderson said. "It's a systematic problem. These are perversion files and secrets held by the Boy Scouts of America."
The Boy Scouts of America responded to the claims in a statement, saying they "care deeply about all victims of child sex abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting."
"We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice," the organization said. "Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children."
Anderson said victims will be able to seek justice under New York's new Child Victims Act.
Speedskater Bridie Farrell, a survivor of abuse and co-founder of NY Loves Kids, an organization that aims to create a safer New York by speaking out about child sexual abuse, was also present at the press conference.
She was abused by an adult speedskating teammate when she was 15.
"This is an institution we trust our children with," she said. "This is an institution that held a file of known perpetrators which it didn't disclose to the authorities, which allowed these people to go on and coach soccer teams, allow them to go on and be teachers.
"With the passage of the Child's Victim Act, myself and many, many survivor across New York state and the country finally have the opportunity to come forward and voice what happened to us and speak our truth and have an element of accountability for the abusers, and also more importantly have systematic change and have it be safer for the next child down the line whether that's in the Boy Scouts or the speedskating community," she said.