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Sex Abuse Survivors Again Dehumanized by Bankruptcy - USA Gym Latest Example of Pain Into Points

More and more, organizations and entities that shelter, protect and facilitate child sex abusers are relying on bankruptcy to avoid true accountability and responsibility. From the Catholic Church (nearly 400 claims in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe – a fraction of the true total), to the Boy Scouts (over 80,000 claims – a fraction of the true total), to USA Gymnastics (over 500 claims – a fraction of the true total), and the inevitable next to declare, a disturbing pattern has emerged.


An organization purports to value and care about the welfare and growth of children. But behind the scenes, its leadership has embraced a culture of self-preservation and hubris above their espoused values. In this culture, predators lurk and are given tremendous access to our youth. Those predators strike, children’s lives are forever altered, generations suffer. Again. And again. And again. Each organization repeats the same refrain - protect the organization from scandal. Keep it quiet. Move the perpetrator. Circle the wagons. And finally, turn to bankruptcy to avoid truly facing the damage you have wrought.

In bankruptcy, the organization gets a chance to wipe its hands clean, to move on in a way that no survivor will ever experience. The law maddeningly ensures the same organization that is responsible for child sexual abuse can “continue its mission.” Getting there, the organization itself can often take a backseat and avoid truly facing those it victimized. Massive insurance companies pick up the reins and use their financial clout to bully survivors. Survivors are beat down by a system that seems to operate as it if was designed to be blind to their pain. Ultimately, they might receive pennies on the dollar for their claims. The culture that oversaw and allowed them to be sexually traumatized as children remains unchanged, the mission continues.


It is not just that the bankruptcy system seems designed to be blind to survivors’ pain. It actively dehumanizes them. Time and time again, organizations that sought bankruptcy because their culture allowed childhood sexual abuse to spread unchecked rely on “plans of reorganization” that reducing the pain of survivors to a macabre point system, pitting them against one other for crumbs.


USA Gymnastics presents the latest example of this disturbing process. A massive insurer holds out, forcing survivors into an untenable choice between getting something, albeit nowhere near enough, or facing years of litigation where the only winner is the insurance defense legal team. Their trauma, lives and humanity given "no longer than 5 pages in length" consideration. And then a scale of 1 to 100 by a stranger to rate your suffering against others. Pre-existing risk and resiliency - 20 points available. Nature of the abuse - 40 points. And so on.

The law can be a powerful weapon to protect the vulnerable and give strength to the downtrodden. It can be an impressive vehicle with which to demand recognition of the humanity of one against the powerful. In these bankruptcies, the law fails.


The system is broken. Bankruptcy should not shield those that refused to protect vulnerable children from predators from accountability. What does it say about our priorities when organizations responsible for the abuse of countless children are sure they can "continue their mission" while the innocent victims are reduced to a five-page letter and between 0 to 100 points? It is time to examine reforming the law to stop these abuses.

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