Editor's note: This story contains sensitive content concerning sexual abuse. Discretion is advised.
Lawsuits have been filed all over the country against local Boy Scout of America chapters over child sex abuse cases, some of them are incidents that took place four to five decades ago.
In Arizona, the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints was hit with seven lawsuits late last year, for allegedly covering up decades of sexual abuse among Boy Scout troops sponsored by the Church.
Chicago-based attorney Mark McKenna with Hurley McKenna, & Mertz a law firm specializing in these cases told ABC15 there were at least 45 victims they have heard of in Arizona. McKenna represented 30 of those Arizona victims. One of his clients was a man who lived in Mesa when he was abused at the hands of a Boy Scoutmaster who was also a member of the LDS church he attended.
The man who asked us not to reveal his name is still traumatized by the crimes he suffered as a child. This victim was just 11-years-old when he was first abused. His abuser was not just a fellow church member, and Boy Scoutmaster, but also a neighbor who lived across the street from him. The victim told ABC15 the abuser had taken him under his wing and would allow him to earn some money for helping him on plumbing jobs. He was someone the victim's family trusted and respected.
He vividly recalled when "flirtations" from the abuser turned physical.
"I was 11-years-old, and we were driving home. He had an Astrovan at the time, a blue van," said the victim. He went on to say the abuser asked him if he wanted to learn how to drive. He made the victim sit on his lap and told him to hold the steering wheel as they drove, and not to let the steering wheel go, as that would cause them to crash.
That was when the simple driving lesson changed his childhood forever.
"He did it the whole time I was driving. I just couldn't take my hands off the steering wheel and it went on for what felt like forever," said the victim describing how the abuser had started to inappropriately touch him while he was driving.
That was just the beginning of seven years of molestation, abuse, threats, along with shame and guilt the victim has harbored well into his adulthood.
"I just couldn't tell anybody. I just kept it to myself, every time," said the victim.
Now along with thousands of other victims, this man is no longer keeping the secret to himself. He is part of a massive lawsuit that has forced the Boy Scouts of America to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
"These victims were abused in decades including the 1950's '60s, '70s and into the '90s," said McKenna.
Many of these cases cannot be tried criminally as the statute of limitations has expired but McKenna said they hoped to hold them accountable in civil court.
"It does not matter when it happened, a victim is a victim," said the victim.
The LDS church has sent ABC15 this statement in regard to the lawsuits:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero-tolerance for abuse of any kind. Our hearts go out to all survivors of abuse. The allegations in these claims are serious in nature and require thorough investigation. To this point, the Church has not been given access to the information cited in this article and has not seen the “public records” that allegedly support the statements being made. The claim that the Church has had access to the BSA ineligible volunteer files for many decades is simply false, as the Church learned about the details of those files at the same time as the general public. These claims will be carefully evaluated and appropriately addressed.”
The Boy Scouts of America has also issued a lengthy statement, highlighting the fact that the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will allow them to create a trust that will be used to compensate victims.