The Society For Creative Anachronism reached settlement last October with victims abused by a local leader in Pennsylvania a decade ago. The settlement calls for a $1.3 million payment to the plaintiffs, and the Society plans to cover a large portion itself while fighting to get its insurers to pay the full amount.
Ben Schragger, then 43, was convicted in 2005 of charges including rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and corruption of minors, all crimes committed against 11 children participating in SCA programs to make medieval-style armor and weapons for mock combat.
Known in the Society as “Lord Ben the Steward,” he led a chapter for more than 10 years and directed the youth program for the society’s East Kingdom, which stretches from Canada to Delaware. Schragger was accused of sexually assaulting nine boys and two girls between the ages of 6 and 16 from June 1999 to August 2003.
After an initial civil lawsuit was filed in 2007 against the SCA on behalf of six victims and dismissed, a second civil lawsuit was filed in 2009 claiming $7 million in damages on grounds that the SCA should be held liable for Schragger’s actions, and for allegedly not having effective policies in place at that time to protect the children. Three individuals serving as local officers of the SCA during this time were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
When the SCA’s insurers resisted paying the settlement the organization sued them. As a result, one insurance company agreed to pay $450,000 of the indemnity. The SCA is still pursuing a suit against another insurer for the remaining $850,000; the case was due to go to trial in May 2012.
In the meantime, the SCA’s parent organization asked all its local and regional units in the U.S. to help fund the rest of the settlement payment by contributing 18% of their cash balance, which it said represented an equitable distribution of the burden.
Kingdoms and affiliates outside of North America were not required to contribute as they were not named in the suit and are separately incorporated in non-U.S. jurisdictions. Affiliates include SCA-Finland, SCA-Sweden, SCA-Australia and SCA-New Zealand.
SCA leadership told members it has changed how youth workers are vetted and expects to make more changes after seeking legal advice:
The SCA has worked to improve its policies and institute new policies where needed. Some of the new policies include the two-deep rule and criminal background checks on anyone wishing to administer youth activities. The Board will be addressing long-range plans for improving its governance structure and risk assessment protocols during 2012, after consultation with internal and outside counsel, as well as the SCA’s financial advisors.
[Thanks to Andrew Trembley for the story.]