I am a husband, a father, a son, brother, uncle, friend, a local community member, a chosen child of God, and a Kanakuk Child Sexual Abuse Survivor. It’s been over 20 years since the abuse began for me by Pete Newman of Kanakuk Kamps. For years I tried to forget about it, stuffed it away in the depths of my mind only sharing it with my wife and counselor. The shame I experienced as a victim is something that I do not wish to bear on anyone. There is not a person on this earth that deserves that amount of shame and guilt.
For years I never wanted to think about it, I didn’t want to read the articles, talk about it, or even acknowledge that it happened in my life. It was much easier to pretend it didn’t exist and move on, in fact, it was necessary. For my survival and any chance of normalcy in my adult life, I felt I had to believe it didn’t happen and I had to make sure no one knew.
It wasn’t until recently, 2019, that I started to really dig deep into how much Pete Newman and Kanakuk Kamps had taken from my life and how much the sin, deception, and evil had affected me. In a men’s redemption retreat at my local church, I had shared with the group about my abuse and the ways in which I had “forgiven” and “moved on.” I shared about all the ways in which I was doing better and how I was glad it hadn’t derailed me as much as it could have. Then I was confronted with the truth and questions from a leader. “Why are you not more upset, have you actually grieved the loss of what happened?” As the room was covered in grown men’s tears while they listened to my story I began to think about these things for the first time.
Pete Newman had broken so many parts of me that I would never be able to repair. He ruined the closeness I had with my mother, he destroyed my relationship with my father, he ruined my view of human sexuality, he ruined my view of intimacy and sexual health with my wife, he motivated my addiction to pornography and masturbation, he destroyed God’s view of women for my life, he severed my friendships, he alienated me from feeling normal, he surrounded me in shame and guilt, he made it impossible for me feel pure again, he sent me into years of counseling, he changed my view of male authority, he created lifetime trust issues in me, he ruined my view of ministry, he sent me down a path of destruction, he took my innocence, and he did all this because someone else made a wager with my life and the countless lives of others all across the United States.
- risk (a sum of money or valued item) against someone else’s on the basis of the outcome of an unpredictable event; bet.
The wager was this – maybe just maybe after being informed of his inappropriate behavior, seeing the warning signs, and hearing first-hand accounts from parents, maybe just maybe, Pete isn’t capable of doing worse. Even after violating the Kanakuk handbook and code of ethics, maybe just maybe, he’s not as bad as he could be. Maybe just maybe, this is an isolated offense and even after knowing he was nude with children on company property, having one on one sleepovers with children, this won’t get any worse.
Joe White and Kanakuk Kamps made a bet on Pete Newman and lost miserably. The cost? Hundreds of innocent children’s lives were forever broken and shamed by the people they trusted most and at least one child’s life stopped short because of that shame and abuse. At a place where Christ is preached, a place where they’re taught to defend the fatherless, the orphan, the oppressed. Joe White and Kanakuk Kamps did not and have not upheld the promise of justice that is in Psalm 82:3-4.
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
The wicked hand was within Kamp gates, inside the Branson community, throughout the country on the Kanakuk trail network, leading mission trips, within the K-Life ministry, inside the schools, inside homes of many families, molesting children on a reccurring basis behind closed doors, and allowed to continue by the leadership of Kanakuk Kamps. There was no rescue, there has been no justice.
Here I sit, over 20 years later, a father, a victim, looking for answers and looking for someone to make sense of why we weren’t rescued. Why did Kanakuk leadership turn a blind eye to the inappropriate actions? Surely if these actions had happened at a school or any other place with children, the person would have been terminated immediately, right? Why did I and hundreds (maybe thousands) of other children have to suffer at the hands of this organization?
This is the thought I have been contemplating for weeks…If they had taken seriously the first report, second report, a third report, etc. how many children would have been saved?
How many children?
The wager? – Our lives.