Victim Voices

All statements on this page were submitted by verified survivors of abuse at Kanakuk Kamps. They reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other survivors or No More Victims, LLC.

Abused at Christian Summer Camp, Survivors Say They’ve Been Kept Silent

For years, a former staffer at Kanakuk Kamps, one of the country’s most popular Christian summer camps, abused dozens of boys. Vice News speaks with survivors, who say the camp has used confidentiality clauses to keep them quiet.

Victims Speak Out About Sexual Abuse at Kanakuk — CBS Dallas/Ft Worth

They slowly walked into a dark studio in a line. One by one each person sat down in one of the chairs lined in two rows under television cameras and lights. They spoke very little to one another.
“I have a story that I want to be told.”
Most of them did not know each other at all. They were coming together for the first time.
“I don’t think I would be able to do it until now…”
And while they were strangers, they all said they have something very horrible in common.
“I don’t think I would be able to do it until now.”
Each person says he or she, or a family member of his or hers, was sexually abused at Kanakuk Kamps sometime between 1999 and 2008.

A View from a Victim: Thoughts Around Kanakuk and Pete Newman from My Own Experience and Questions Worth Asking

Naturally, I am not a person to engage in conflict. Rather, I attempt to find ways to resolve it. Perhaps this is my modest attempt. I don’t want to be torn down nor would I aim to tear down others. However, Christians are called to seek justice, defend the oppressed, not show favoritism, and judge our neighbor fairly. This is even more important when we are talking about the victims of sexual abuse. God knows the hearts of men, but he has given mankind the autonomy of choosing how we look after the “least of these.” And a disclaimer, this article assumes a general knowledge of the Newman Kanakuk sexual abuse scandal.
I could write a book on my personal experience around Kanakuk: the good, the bad and the daunting task of making sense of how the two existed together. But for now, I’ll just start the conversation and focus on my title.

Kanakuk Gambles with the Lives of Children...and Loses

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.

The Voice of a Victim's Father

As a father of one of the victims I was very offended, and my heart ached when Joe White referred to my son as a drop of water. Those words brought back so many horrible memories that I dropped to my knees and cried and asked, “why my son?” My son is beautiful and wonderfully made. He did not deserve this. None of these boys deserved this. And had it not been for Joe White personally encouraging me to allow my son to spend time with Pete, I never would have. Joe White, I hold you responsible.
Additionally, Joe White also knew there would be a chance that my son would be naked with Pete. He knew that Pete would do these kinds of activities with boys and allowed him to continue his abuse. My son was not the first and was not the last. And Joe knew that.

The Voice of a Victim's Mother

As a mother of a victim, I was furious to learn Kanakuk is claiming that the Plaintiffs requested to be entered into an NDA! Nothing could be further from the truth! My husband, son and I personally had to fight Joe White and his team of legal advisors against the NDA.
We were threatened that if we did not sign the NDA our lawsuit would drag on for years in the appellate courts which would delay the counseling and healing of our son. They beat us down emotionally, mentally, and spiritually with intense pressure to sign the NDA which left us crippled by fear and pure exhaustion!

Survivors Continue to be Treated as a Liability, Rather Than as People Suffering in Silence

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.

Through the Victim's Eyes...

Sexual assault                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Everyone says it’s not your fault                                                                                                                                            
Like a robber just came in and took everything in the vault                                   
Except the vault is my heart                                                                                                                                                             
And my emotions are everywhere                                                                                                                                                   
So where do I start                                                                                                                                                                         
Should I go to the prison and tell him he ruined my life                                  
And that what he did to me will make it hard to find a wife              
Or do I stay bottled up                                                                                                                                                 

An Open Letter to Joe White

March 13, 2014
Joe White, President
Kanakuk Kamps
Branson, MO
Mr. White,
I cannot begin the salutation with “dear”.  I do not look upon you dearly.  When I think of you, I feel pain and betrayal.
We trusted you with our children. We looked up to you. We believed the things you said about camp and specifically, your camps. Over a ten year period, we sent our children to camp. We planned vacations around camp schedules. We worked sports around camp schedules. For years, I was one of you and your camps’ biggest fans. We bought your books. We gave to your ministries. We supported Kanakuk, K-Life, Kids Across America, and you. We believed in your mission.

Stones Left Unturned

Pete Newman abused and groomed me starting in 1996, which was Newman’s second year as counselor, through when I went to college. My Kamp family was never contacted by Kanakuk. I found out through the internet after he was imprisoned. Kanakuk claims they contacted victims and sent a mass email; however, in 1996, email was not yet a popular form of communication as everything was handled on those ‘Blue Boys’ information sheets, handwritten postcards and standard mail.  Even with an upgrade to an electronic records system (“Circuitry”), they still had old contact information.  Therefore, rather than sending a handful of emails, Kanakuk Kamps should have reached out in every way possible including the information from those ‘Blue Boys’ sheets (physical addresses, emails and phone numbers).  The system update did not delete all contact information this institution possessed.

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