PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Anyone who was sexually abused as a child in the Boy Scouts of America now has less than a week to file a claim against them in court.

Arizona's Family has been following the developments since before the organization officially filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

The Chapter 11 filing forced the courts to set a deadline for any further claims as they consolidate assets. And the number of survivors coming forward is believed to be four times what we've seen with the Catholic Church sex crimes cases.

'The dark side of it comes out'

Michael Clifton knows now there were a lot of red flags he missed growing up.

"I've tried to erase it, put it behind me best I can," Clifton said.

He saved some mementos from his time in Boy Scouts and wishes he could erase his encounters with troop leader Craig Cowan.

"I would see him going to bed and say, 'Come here.' You know, and pull them in there like they needed to be there," Clifton said of the younger boys on camping trips.

At 14, Clifton was the oldest in his troop and feels guilty he didn't know better to protect them.

Michael Clifton in scout uniform

Michael Clifton in a Boy Scout uniform.

"He said that he slept naked because it was the only way you should do it to stay warm. You stay warmer, that's what he told us. And he would do it every time, every outing," Clifton said.

"I didn't even know that was inappropriate," Clifton added.

Clifton and five other boys later helped Cowan move from Redlands, California, to Bullhead City, Arizona.

"And that's when it all happened," Clifton said.

He says Cowan gave them all alcohol before bedtime as they were watching a movie.

"I wake up to someone crouched beside the bed crawled up on his knees, reaching up under the covers with his hand on my privates," Clifton said.

He says the same thing happened to his younger brother and the other boys.

"All of a sudden, boom, the dark side of it comes out and it's just like, wow, devastating," Clifton said.

Clifton  scouting pics

At 14, Clifton was the oldest in his troop and feels guilty he didn't know better to protect them.

Marci Hamilton and and her team with the nonprofit group CHILD USA have reviewed thousands of cases of sex abuse in scouting.

"Children are inherently at risk when they're alone with an adult," Hamilton said.

"Boy Scouts created this trusting environment. It was really apple pie and good for everybody. That was an open door for individuals who would use that trust to take advantage of kids," Hamilton added.

Her team is compiling statistics from thousands of cases filed against Boy Scouts of America. So far, they've found more than 71% of the victims were abused multiple times and almost two-thirds of the accused abusers stayed in scouting after being reported to Boy Scouts.

"It's just wrong, all the way around, it's terrible," Clifton said.

"It's such a formative time of life and the damage that was done to these children is extreme, depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse, difficulties in forming strong relationships," Hamilton said.

Abuse persists in Bullhead City

Clifton says the boys all confronted Cowan, got out of there as fast as they could and when they went home, figured that was the end of it.

"I didn't ever dream he would have another troop," Clifton said.

But he did.

Scott Powell was 11 when he joined Cowan's Boy Scout Troop in Bullhead City.

"There was not a lot of parenting going on in my household," Powell said.

He remembers all the kids really looking up to Cowan when he came into town.

Scott Powell during abuse

Scott Powell was abused when he was a pre-teen.

"He came off as a father figure. He had a Pong game which was really a state-of-the-art video game at the time. No one had it," Powell said.

"I think he had the first microwave oven in Bullhead City! So he was kind of this cool guy that took an interest in all aspects of my life," Powell added.

He says Cowan was a physician's assistant at the local doctor's office and gave all the boys physicals before summer camp.

"After that, he said, 'OK, I need to do the hernia exam again," Powell remembers.

"From there, he started to manually manipulate me. And I got a little freaked out. And he said, 'You know, it's built up in there, we got to get it out. It has to come out or it's going to eventually affect your ability to have kids in the future,'" Powell said.

He says Cowan was persistent with the ruse and did the same thing four, sometimes six times a week, for four years.

"Back then, school counselors- nobody ever talked to kids about what's appropriate and what's not," Powell said.

Scott Powell when he ended abuse

Photo of Scott Powell when the abuse came to an end.

At one point, Powell and his mom moved in with Cowan, relocating to Henderson, Nevada. Then she moved out and got married, leaving Powell behind.

"I didn't know anything about foster homes. I didn't know anything about where I might end up living, if not there," Powell said.

Attorney Ken Rothweiler is with the Abused in Scouting coalition, representing up to 50,000 survivors.

"Time doesn't heal," said Rothweiler. "You know, 50 years later, it doesn't matter if the pain is still there."

"Like the Catholic church, the Boy Scouts knew about these pedophiles going back years," Rothweiler added.

Boy Scouts' response

BSA declined our request for an interview saying the CHILD USA study is biased because it's funded by Abused in Scouting firms.

BSA released a statement saying:

"We care deeply about all victims and sincerely apologize to anyone harmed during their time in Scouting.

We are outraged there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children."

"Nobody knew more about the risk to your child than the Boy Scouts. And they weren't telling the parents. And they weren't keeping the next child safe. And so that's recklessness that's not just negligence," Hamilton said.

The Boy Scouts confidential "perversion files" go back more than 100 years. Shortly after forming in 1910, they started tracking convicted pedophiles and allegations of abuse in their ranks.

They finally adopted a "two-deep" rule in 1987, requiring two adults at all scouting events and activities. They didn't start running criminal background checks on their hires for another seven years. And BSA waited until 2010 to officially adopt a policy requiring mandatory reporting of any sex abuse allegations to law enforcement.

The pain remains

Powell says he tried to report his abuse years later when he saw Cowan on the news as he was being arraigned for felony child porn charges in 1996. And while Cowan was convicted, he was never even charged with any crimes for what happened during his time as a scoutmaster. He died in 2009.

Craig Cowan's booking photo

Craig Cowan's booking photo for felony child porn charges.

"The only way that I could see justice happening, is to undo what was done. Anything short of that is not justice; it's just punishment," Powell said.

Powell says no settlement can make up for what Cowan stole from him. Lost innocence, lost years.

"My whole junior high, high school experience," Powell said.

"That's really tough. I mean, that really bothers me," Clifton said.

Clifton is still deeply disturbed by how widespread the abuse was across the organization.

Photo of Craig Cowan on a Boy Scouts trip

Photo of Craig Cowan on a Boy Scouts trip.

"I wish I would have known to have been more vocal about it," Clifton said.

There's a big BSA camp just around the corner from where he lives now off the Oregon coast.

"Every time I go by it, you know, the hair on the back of my neck goes up like, 'God, I hope the boys or the kids are OK,'" Clifton said.

Hope for the future

BSA says their Chapter 11 filing will help them restructure to "carry out its mission for years to come."

"I've lived with it for a lot of years. It's just devastating, "Clifton said.

Like Powell, he is ready for it to all be over so he can put this behind him for good.

And he hopes others will come forward to find healing as well.

"I just hope that it helps," Clifton said.

Again, if you or anyone you know was abused as a child in Boy Scouts, you only have until Monday, Nov. 16, to file a claim before the bankruptcy court deadline.

For more information on the Abused In Scouting coalition, clip/tap here. For the latest on the BSA's youth protection policies, click/tap here. The BSA has a counseling fund for any abuse survivors and their family members using a provider of their choice and has also partnered with an online anonymous support resource. Click/tap here for more information.

Nicole Crites anchors 3TV's Good Evening Arizona weekdays. Nicole also digs deep into issues affecting Arizonans.  You'll see her reports on 3TV News at 9 p.m.
 
 

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