Kanakuk Kamps put out an unsigned statement in its “Press” section on March 30, 2021, in response to a deluge of articles exposing the history of camp staff’s crimes against children. They say that they “are forever sorry.”
Using the same language victims and their families have heard for more than a decade, the statement alludes to Pete Newman’s arrest but ignores other convicted sex offenders affiliated with Kanakuk. They did more recently acknowledge Lee Bradberry’s crimes in a letter to families. Victims of other known Kanakuk-affiliated abusers remain unacknowledged and unseen, and survivors continue to express that they feel they are being treated as a liability, rather than as people suffering in silence.
Despite the camp’s statement that “there were many measures in place to prevent such a tragedy,” in reference to Pete Newman’s crimes, evidence to the contrary exists, including a deposition statement from Joe White, Kanakuk CEO, that it wasn’t “even on our radar.” Doug Goodwin, Kanakuk’s President and COO, confirmed in depositions that “Pete had been involved in different situations that involved nakedness.” The camp did not take action to handle multiple reports of nudity with children according to “then-current industry recommendations.”
Further, a review of the Kanakuk Child Protection Plan (CPP) indicates a deficit in expertise. Rick Braschler, who has served as Kanakuk’s director of risk since 2003, admitted under oath that he had no experience in this area prior to joining Kanakuk.
Braschler travels around the country presenting a PowerPoint entitled “What Did I Learn and Create After Catching a Child Molester.” Despite conspicuous grooming behavior, Braschler didn’t “catch” Pete Newman, nor did he “catch” Lee Bradberry prior to each having multiple victims. Less child rape is not no child rape.
After the creation of the CPP, former camp executive Kris Cooper presented a safety seminar to campers, in which Kanakuk’s protocol was to report a concern to your counselor, another staff member, or an “anonymous” feedback box to be checked by the camp.
According to Dr. Susan Bissell, former head of Child Protection for UNICEF and Founding Director, Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, “Kids need to have a way in which they can reach out to somebody outside the system in which they’re being abused. If there’s even a suspicion, you need law enforcement involved from the beginning, and really you need a one-stop shop kind of arrangement […] so that the child only has to recount their story once if they have been a victim […] and not the business […] to tell everybody the same thing, four or five times. And by the time they’ve done that, they’re traumatized beyond belief.”
Child protection plans need to be developed by experts and, even then, are only as good as their implementation.
“Investigations following the events of 2009 have determined that no one at Kanakuk knew that any criminal activity was being committed, and no charges for failure to report were ever filed,” constitutes another twisting of facts, which forthcoming evidence will refute.
It is time for this camp, especially CEO and Board Chair Joe White, to admit irreparable failures, which go well beyond Pete Newman’s predation. Stop rebranding and start repenting. The truth will continue to come to light. The victims are taking their voices back. Forgiveness is one component of healing, but Kanakuk abuse survivors also yearn for justice.
If the camp truly believes “victims of abuse should never have to endure secrecy, cover ups or dismissal” as their press statement claims, then Kanakuk should immediately release all victims who have privately settled with the camp from their NDAs and similar clauses. The petition for this request gained nearly 1,000 signatures on its first day and continues to grow by the thousands. Joe White and other camp leadership must call for an independent investigation into Kanakuk Ministries and its affiliates. Listen and respond. Until the camp meets its words with action, apology not accepted.