Almost 100,000 victims of sexual abuse that took place in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) had come forward by Monday evening, the deadline to receive compensation from the organisation, a lawyer for the victims told reporters.
“As of today, 95,000 claims have been filed,” attorney Paul Moses said.
The figure, revealing the scale of alleged abuse committed over decades by scout leaders, dwarfs the roughly 11,000 complaints believed to have been filed in recent years against the Catholic Church.
“It’s by far the largest sexual abuse scandal in the US,” Moses said, adding that scouting has long offered a “perfect petri dish” for paedophiles.
“Boys have taken an oath of loyalty, they are away from their parents, in the wilderness. We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward,” the scouting organization said in a statement.
“We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain. We intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation. The response we have seen from survivors has been gut wrenching. We are deeply sorry,” the BSA added.
The group, founded in 1910, has 2.2 million members between the ages of five and 21.
Rocked by accusations of sexual abuse, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in February in an effort to block settlement claims from hitting the organisation directly and instead funnelled them to a compensation fund.
The group, which is valued at more than $1 billion, has not said how much they intend to spend via this fund.
Revelations of misconduct in US scouting circles came to widespread attention in 2012 when the Los Angeles Times published internal documents spelling out details of decades of sexual abuse.
Some 5,000 “perversion files” were uncovered, identifying about as many alleged culprits among scout leadership, including scout masters and troop leaders.
Most incidents were not reported to authorities, and the BSA took it upon themselves to remove the accused offenders.
Negotiations will now begin between victims, the BSA and their insurers to determine the amounts to be paid.
Moses said it was a “very complicated” process that could last one or two years.
Moses in 2010 won $20 million for a former Boy Scout abused by his leader.
Multiple cases have been filed against the BSA since 2012, especially after several states extended the statute of limitations on allegations of child sexual assault.