The group that built its reputation teaching survival skills to boys - is now struggling for its own survival. Upwards of 95,000 people have now filed sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America. Today's cover story: How a bankruptcy case has turned into the biggest sexual abuse lawsuit in history. A caution - some of the accounts are graphic.
In the 1980s, Philip Clark was a 12-year-old, growing up in Bossier City, Louisiana and doing what all his classmates were doing - signing up for the Boy Scouts.
Philip Clark: Yeah, school offered it, friends were in it. My mom was single, three boys and things of that nature. I wanted to kind of be a man and this offered that
The reality proved far different. Soon, Clark says, he was among the boys handpicked to report alone to a scout leader’s tent on a campout. This is the first time he’s spoken publicly about it.
Philip Clark: Well then, you got to take off your shirt so he can put the badge on it. That’s how it starts, right?
Sharyl: Did it just seemed normal at first?
Philip Clark: Well, I mean, you got trust or whatever in these people, you know what I mean? You've done things with them before and it was okay.
Sharyl: Only as explicit as you want to be, but was there sexual abuse after the man told you to take your shirt off?
Philip Clark: Yeah, pants came next, and then he pulled his penis out, and he played with himself. And then showed you a certain way to do things. Yeah.
After he left that troop, he says more abuse came at a troop he joined in his neighborhood at the hands of the cub scout den mother and her friends.
Sharyl: And so, would the male friends come to the meetings when you were there?
Philip Clark: Yeah. And never really paid any attention to that until she put my head between her legs, basically where I couldn't breathe. And while he's fondling me from the back.
Sharyl: How has that impacted just maybe-
Philip Clark: Everything in my daily life, yeah. From intimacy, from trust, communication, withdrawn from school, withdrawn from friends. Something was stolen from me.
Stories like Clark’s are being repeated thousands of times as a result of a court action that’s put a horrifying asterisk on the Boy Scouts’ decades-old legacy.
Since its founding shortly after 1900, the Boy Scouts have helped shape the lives of 130-million youngsters with help from 35-million adult volunteers.
“America’s manpower begins with boy power, let’s not waste it. be a volunteer worker with the boy scouts.”
Now a wave of sexual abuse claims has emerged through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed early last year.
Attorney Steve Babin represents Clark and thousands of other alleged victims.
Sharyl: I think, for decades, a lot of people have heard stories about abuse within the Boy Scouts. How did this lawsuit finally come about?
Steven Babin: I mean, it was essentially started by the Boy Scouts themselves. There were a number of lawsuits that had been filed across the country. I think the Boy Scouts did some internal audits and investigations and determined that the amount of liability is tremendous here. So, the option would be to continue to litigate in regular court, or to go into bankruptcy and see if some type of resolution can be gained through reorganization.
Nobody denies there’s been egregious abuse.
Former scout leader David Kress was accused of giving boys as young as age 10 liquor and showing them pornography before raping them and threatening them if they told. He’s serving 15 years in prison.
Former boy scout Catholic chaplain James Glawson is serving 40 years for sexually assaulting six boys, one developmentally disabled.
Former scout leader Matthew Baker got life in prison after molesting boys as young as age 8, and allegedly trying to have some of them killed.
Former scout leader Ronald Rowcliffe pleaded guilty after boys said he grabbed their genitals while adjusting their shooting stance.
Former scout leader Carlos Acevedo is also serving life after raping a 12-year old and selling him for sex with other men.
Ex-Boy Scout volunteer Thomas Daleske was found dead in prison last year where he was serving 45 years for abusing six boys.
Former scout leader Darrell Fisher – an 18 year sentence after sexually assaulting boys and forcing them to change a soiled diaper he wore.
David Watkins — 30 years on 36 counts; he defended the sex with boys as “consensual.”
Arthur Sorensen Jr. —15 years in prison after charges involving child porn and rape.
Scott Wortman, Bruce Quick, Michael Kelsey... all ex-scout leaders convicted of criminal charges
Steven Babin: So, I know that there are abusers that have been convicted. I don't know how many. I do know that the Boy Scouts kept files – they called them the “Pervert Files”— on hand, that were files of known abusers
Sharyl: Tell me about the “Pervert Files.”
Steven Babin: So, what they are, are lists of individuals who have been accused of child abuse, child sex abuse in this case, and what the Boy Scouts did with those lists, which is essentially nothing. Oftentimes, they were simply moved to another troop, or quietly moved out of the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts organization has admitted to maintaining extensive confidential files, but says the goal was to keep sexual abusers out of scouting.
Within those files was the case of Douglas Nail. Accused of molestation at a boy scout sleepover in 1984, he was allowed to quietly resign. He spent the next two decades coaching youth hockey, eventually accused of molesting an eight-year-old. In 2004, 20 years after the scouts first flagged him, he was convicted on federal child porn charges.
The Boy Scouts of America declined our interview request. The group has said: “Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children. New policies include a multi-layered process of safeguards, a ban against one-on-one encounters between adults and children, criminal background checks, and mandatory reporting of suspected abuse to police.”
Meantime, with financial terms for victims being negotiated, the Boy Scouts’ insurance provider has argued that opportunist lawyers are drumming up cases.
For decades the Boy Scouts of America admitted thousands of child molesters into their scouting ranks enabling countless acts of sexual abuse to occur against innocent children:
After all the ad campaigns, the number of claims jumped from under 2,000 to 95,000 by the November 16 deadline last year.
Some suspects claim they’re wrongly accused.
"It simply did not happen.”
In February, attorney and former scout leader Barry Rozas was arrested on a rape charge. His name among 28 complaints the local Boy Scouts council turned over to police. They received the names through the bankruptcy case
“And there are no circumstances that can ever be misconstrued as inappropriate in all of my years as being a scout leader.”
Amid the scandal is an overriding question: Will the Boy Scouts of America survive the financial hit from compensating confirmed victims, and will it survive the damage to their brand name?
Former Eagle scout— and former scout leader— Chuck Pezeshki says it would be a mistake to shut them down.
Chuck Pezeshki: The problem with zero tolerance is it's easy to take apart an organization like Scouts and it's potential, Sharyl, that scouting won't survive this series of lawsuits. Basically, we're all into deconstructing and tearing apart these institutions without feeling any obligation to think of how we're going to replace them. So, scouting right now is one of the venues that both girls and boys can use to get out and have those experiential educational experiences that mostly you cannot get inside grade school and high school.
Philip Clark: It came out where finally, it's not just me alone. That it wasn't my fault. So, whoever's fault it is needs to pay for that. And I'm not talking about money. I'm just talking about be held, not, "Okay, let's go ahead and put this under the rug with everything else like they always do, like they're still doing."
Sharyl (on-camera): Negotiations continue between victims’ lawyers and the Boy Scouts, which has said it needs an approved settlement by early summer in order to survive.