Two men have filed separate lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America and Montana Council alleging they were sexually abused while Scouting and that the organization was negligent by failing to report and protect the boys.
The lawsuits were filed in Cascade County and claim the BSA failed to implement and enforce child protection policies and vet troop leaders despite decades of known abuse having occurred in the BSA by the time of the two men’s alleged abuse in 1968 and 1980.
The suits filed Wednesday follow the footsteps of dozens of other lawsuits filed this year across the country against the BSA also alleging sexual abuse by adult volunteers.
Both men are represented by Portland-based law firm Dumas & Vaughn. Attorneys Gilion Dumas and Ashley Vaughn are also representing cases against the BSA in Oregon, California, Iowa and New York. They've also represented similar cases against the BSA in Idaho, Washington, Alaska and Texas. Bozeman attorney Jim Molloy is also representing the Montana case.
Calls to the Montana Council for comment were not immediately returned Wednesday.
In response to other similar lawsuits, the BSA have apologized to anyone harmed while Scouting, and said it cares deeply for all victims of child abuse.
"We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our program to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, and we pay for counseling by a provider programs of their choice and we encourage them to come forward," the BSA said in an email to the Billings Gazette.
In August, the Billings Gazette reported on a lawsuit to be filed in New Jersey naming a man who was allowed to serve as a Scout leader in Billings in the 1980s despite being BSA placing him in its "ineligible volunteer" file. In 1987, he was convicted in Billings of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 11 and 12, and sentenced to 8 years in prison.
These lawsuits are possible, in part, because a bill was signed into law in May allowing a one-year window for victims of child sex abuse to file a lawsuit against their abuser even if the statute of limitations had otherwise expired. That window closes in May. The bill also extends the deadline for individuals seeking to file a lawsuit from 21-years-old to 27-years-old, or until three years after the victim discovers injury caused by the sex abuse.
The two men are identified only by initials in the court documents to protect their privacy.
One troop leader used his position of authority to gain trust with the Boy Scouts, one of the lawsuits alleges. He maneuvered the confidence he gained as a troop leader to spend long periods of time with plaintiff M.M.
M.M. was a Boy Scout in Troop 26 in Hamilton until he quit in 1971. He was allegedly abused by the troop leader from 1968 to 1971. Abuse over the three years included multiple incidents of mutual fondling, oral sex, and one incident of anal sex, according to the complaint.
The abuse stopped when M.M. quit the Boy Scouts and no longer saw the troop leader, the suit says.
M.M. had tried to stop the abuse about a year before he quit; M.M. reported the abuse to another troop leader about two years into the abuse. The troop leader ignored the report and took no action to stop the abuse, the complaint alleges. The abuse continued for another year.
“This young Scout told a trusted Scout leader that his Scoutmaster was sexually abusing him, and the Boy Scouts did nothing to remove the man from Scouting, report him to law enforcement, or even limit his access to children,” said Vaughn, one of the attorneys for the two men.
Instead of removing him from his position, the BSA kept the man as a Scout leader until 1984, even awarding him a Silver Beaver Award for distinguished service, the complaint says.
“I hope that this case will help right the wrong that was done to me and others when we were children in Boy Scouts," M.M. said in a press release. M.M., born in 1957, now lives in Oregon.
The second lawsuit filed in Montana details abuse that occurred in Great Falls over a five-year period.
M.B. participated in Troop 190 in Great Falls, sponsored by the Malstrom Air Force Base, according to the lawsuit. M.B.’s Scout leader acted like a surrogate father to M.B., whose own father was often deployed in the military. M.B. was born in 1968.
He was allegedly abused by the leader from 1980 to 1985. Abuse included forced oral sex and fondling, according to the complaint and occurred in the man's home and car and during hiking and camping trips.
The complaint doesn’t specify how the abuse stopped, but states M.B. was too afraid to continue as a Boy Scout into his teenage years, even after moving from Great Falls. M.B. still lives in Montana.
The complaints alleges the BSA was negligent and fraudulent by failing to supervise abusive men and implement proper policies to protect children from sexual abuse — despite decades of prior sexual abuse reported in the BSA.
Beginning as early as the 1920s the BSA regularly received reports of abuse from local councils. They filed those reports using a “Red Flag” system, also known as “ineligible volunteer” files, attempting to track abusive adult volunteers.
The “ineligible volunteer” files were organized by types of transgressions committed by adults. The file that contained information on alleged sexual abuse by adults was labeled the “perversion files,” the two lawsuits states.
The lawsuits name four Scout leaders who were filed as “ineligible volunteers” in Montana before M.B.’s abuse occurred. The BSA should have been aware of the danger posed to Montana Scouts because there had been a “longstanding, consistent and widespread problem with adult Scout volunteers sexually abusing Scouts," according to the lawsuits.
The BSA acted fraudulently by failing to disclose its knowledge of the abusive history of Scouting to M.M., M.B. or their parents and by concealing its knowledge of sexual abuse, the complaints allege.
“The Boy Scouts had a duty to protect the children in its program from the known danger of child molesters. Instead, BSA put the reputation of the program and its adult Scout leaders before children’s safety,” Dumas said, one of the attorneys for the two men.
The BSA acknowledge that no system is perfect and that there have been instances in the organization's history when cases of abuse weren’t addressed consistently.
“In the 1920s, the BSA created a system to bar individuals from Scouting who should not work with youth. That system continues to this day and has been continually updated and enhanced over time,” the BSA said.
Since then the BSA has continually updated their Volunteer Screening Database, which is recommended by the Center for Disease Control for other youth programs, the BSA said.
“(The VSD) remains a valuable tool in preventing known or suspected abusers from joining or reentering our organization,” the statement read, in part.