About 800 men have come forward this year alleging they were sexually abused as boys by Boy Scouts of America leaders, a group of lawyers said Tuesday.
Their announcement at a news conference in Washington, D.C., came a day after two Philadelphia lawyers in the group filed a lawsuit on behalf of a 57-year-old Luzerne County man who says he was sexually abused starting around age 12 by a troop leader in the 1970s.
“There is a crisis in the Boy Scouts,” Philadelphia attorney Stewart Eisenberg said during the news conference at the National Press Club, which was livestreamed on Facebook.
Eisenberg and the other lawyers at the news conference formed a group called Abused in Scouting in February to encourage victims to come forward in the wake of news reports about a possible bankruptcy filing by the Boy Scouts of America.
As a result, about 800 men across the country have contacted the group, Eisenberg said.
In a phone interview Monday, Eisenberg said that more lawsuits may be coming.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Monday does not want to be identified beyond his initials, S.D. his age, and his hometown area, Eisenberg said. S.D. was a member of Boy Scout Troop 100 in Plains Township, near Wilkes-Barre. Starting when he was 12 or 13 years old around 1975, he was sexually abused for about five years by an assistant scoutmaster in his troop, Eisenberg said.
The lawsuit names as defendants Texas-based Boy Scouts of America; the Penn Mountains Council, a chartered organization of the Boy Scouts that administers programs in and around Luzerne County; and S.D.’s alleged abuser, Paul Antosh, of the Wilkes-Barre area.
A woman who answered the phone at the Boy Scouts of America’s headquarters told a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Tuesday to contact its press office by email for comment. The press office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
A message left on a voicemail listed on a home number listed for a Paul Antosh in Wilkes-Barre was not immediately returned Tuesday.
For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts of America has kept a list of thousands of leaders suspected of preying on young boys — called “perversion files” or “ineligible volunteers files” — and were kicked out of scouting, Scout officials acknowledged in April.
During the news conference, the lawyers called on Congress — which created the Boy Scouts more than a century ago — and other authorities to act.
“Congress can hold hearings,” Eisenberg said.
And if the U.S. Congress won’t act, local and state prosecutors can do so, the lawyers said.
The attorneys said that during their call-out to victims during the past six months via their website and through television campaigns, about 800 former scouts have reached out to their group and from that, the attorneys have identified about 350 alleged predators who were Boy Scout leaders who have previously not been identified in the Scout’s “perversion files.”