COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A slate of Ohioans who said they were sexually abused by their Boy Scout troop leaders urged lawmakers Tuesday to pass a bill entitling them to 100% of the compensation they’re owed.
At a hearing to reconsider House Bill 35, or the Scout’s Honor Law, Ohio representatives listened to five men divulge details about the childhood sexual violence they endured at various Boy Scouts of America outings – an oft-told tale that ultimately forced the 112-year-old organization to file for bankruptcy in 2020.
But because of Ohio’s strict laws governing when a sexual assault victim can sue their alleged perpetrator, survivors like Upper Arlington resident Seth Porter are only slated to receive a fraction of their total share of the Boy Scouts’ $2.7 billion bankruptcy settlement.
“For many of us, we feel like we’re being abused again,” Porter told lawmakers.
In August, a federal judge released a 281-page ruling that solidified most plans for the BSA to divvy up $2.7 billion – the largest sex abuse case in U.S. history – among the 82,209 survivors who filed claims against them. Of those claimants, nearly 2,000 are from Ohio.
Ohio survivors, however, are capped at receiving 30%-45% of their total share because of a complicated “scaling factor” imposed in the BSA’s agreement that weighs the amount of damages each survivor can recoup based on the length of the state’s statute of limitations, according to Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), the House Majority Floor Leader.
“If you’ve got a longer statute of limitations, the way the settlement reads is you might be entitled to greater compensation than if you had a shorter statute of limitations,” Seitz, a co-sponsor of the Scout’s Honor Law, said in August.
Ohio’s civil statute of limitations bars child sex abuse victims from pursuing civil action once they turn 30. That means, according to the BSA’s compensation calculator, that an Ohio scout who was raped may be entitled to damages between $22,500 and $637,875.
But in California, where the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims is 10 years longer than in Ohio, scout abuse survivors could redeem between $60,000 and $1.7 million in damages.
“If you had a victim that was similarly victimized in a state with a long statute of limitations versus one with a shorter statute of limitations,” Seitz said, “why should they not both be eligible for the same amount of compensation that the bankrupt defendant is willing to pay?”
Scout’s Honor Law, introduced by Seitz and Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) last July, would abolish the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims, but only in cases where survivors file claims against a bankruptcy estate that voluntarily agreed to settle.
A footnote in the BSA’s bankruptcy settlement allows the scaling factor – which limits the amount Ohio survivors can recoup – to be adjusted if the state legislature enacts a bill within one year to expand or abolish the civil statute of limitations in such cases.
That’s why Steve Shipp, 70, of Columbus, urged lawmakers to enact the Scout’s Honor Law and ensure that he and the four other survivors who testified on Tuesday receive 100% of their share of the settlement.
Abused by his scoutmaster between the ages of 10 and 16, Shipp said it’s impossible to recover the emotional, physical and financial damages the repeated abuse cost him as a child.
“Your decision on this law may one day affect my bank account balance,” Shipp said, “but no amount of money can bring back the time I have lost with my family or erase the hurt and shame I feel every single day.”