Thursday, February 10, 2011

Suit by sexual abuse victim charges Kanakuk, Pete Newman with fraud, negligence

A lawsuit filed Jan. 31 in Taney County Circuit Court charges officials at the Christian sports camp Kanakuk with fraud for allowing Pete Newman to masquerade as a role model at the same time he was molesting scores of underage boys. The petition was filed on behalf of a Little Rock man who was only 12 years old when Newman allegedly began grooming him.

Among the allegations in the petition:

-Kanakuk officials had received sexual misconduct reports about Pete Newman as early as 1999. (He remained in Kanakuk's employ until 2009.)

-Kanakuk's cost-saving policies encouraged employees recruiting campers in the off-season to stay with families, providing opportunities for Newman to zero in on potential victims.

-Kanakuk promoted Newman as a "camp director, devoted husband, loving, beloved friend and mentor to youth" long after being made aware of sexual misconduct allegations. Camp officials also allowed Newman to "continue to promote himself all over America as an expert on teenage sexual purity."

-Newman had one-on-one Bible studies with boys in his hot tub.

-Newman used his unrestricted access to Kanakuk facilities to lure underage boys to the facilities during the off-season for sexual purposes.

-Newman bombarded the plaintiff, referred to as "John Doe, J. G." in the petition with phone calls and letters and engaged in phone sex with him.

-Newman had sexual relations with boys in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. (Not mentioned was Colorado where Newman, who is currently serving two life sentences plus 30 years in a Missouri penitentiary, still faces charges.)

-At a "Purity Conference" in Memphis, Newman engaged a group of boys in sex talk, telling them what it was like to "have sex with a woman now that he was married."

-Newman nvited the plaintiff to a conference in Oklahoma where he tried to get the boy to engage in sodomy, was turned down, and finally convinced him to engage in a mutual masturbation session.

According to the petition, the plaintiff was first seduced by Newman on Feb. 7, 2003, and then again the following day at K-Kountry in Taney County, at an area known as "The Pit," a foam pit next to the gymnastics equipment.

In the summer of 2003, the petition says, Newman lured the children with a yellow jeep into "spending time with him on Kanakuk property."

During the Purity Conference in  Tennessee in 2004, Newman again engaged in a mutual masturbation session with the boy and then took advantage of him at the conference in Oklahoma in 2005, according to the lawsuit.

Kanakuk officials and Newman are charged with fraud, negligent supervision of a minor, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent infliction of emotional damage, breach of duty in loco parentis (serving in place of the parents) and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The petition indicates the plaintiff suffers from "severe depression and ongoing anxiety and that he is "psychologically confused and spiritually damaged by a person promoted to him by Kanakuk as a fole model."

The plaintiff is asking for a jury trial.


Anonymous said...

It makes me angry that this family is now getting involved because they want money!!! They had a chance to help put Newman behind bars and wouldn't participate in the criminal side of this. I guess it was ok to let other boys get crucified through the process and now that Newman is put away to come back and ask for a boatload of money. Whatever happened to doing the right thing and telling your story to help keep all kids safe? So disappointing.

Anonymous said...

It makes me sad to see someone immediately jump on this blog and criticize a victim and his family. Some of the victims, which now stand at about 60+ are adults, and the statute of limitations may have already expired to pursue criminal charges on their behalf. And, the families each have their own reasons for the decisions that were made on behalf of their children. If they are adults, some of them may need long term care, counseling, and are dealing with all kinds of problems that are very expensive to treat. Shame on the above person.

Anonymous said...

Hang the Kamp, they got it coming.
Maybe even better, cost them enough they have to close down the "Kristian facility".

Anonymous said...

I think this stupid camp should pay through the nose to these children and their families.

But they won't. They'll resist, probably file bankruptcy and reopen under another name or something.

You know, the "christian" thing to do.

The true colors ALWAYS show folks.

Never get involved with these churches, and NEVER let your kids near them. You can love and serve God without ever putting a dime in the plate, swiping your debit card, giving them your W2 OR setting your foot in the door.
THAT you can believe.

Anonymous said...

As a former camper, I have mixed feelings about this camp. Of course, if the camp director(s) knew about Mr. Newman's proclivities, they are as responsible as he is and they deserve to be sued. (The person who did the victim blaming in the first post should be deeply ashamed. Just because you love Kanakuk doesn't mean you have to show blind loyalty to them, even when there's clear evidence that they did something incredibly corrupt and/or naive that did real harm to people.) But, while I don't personally admire the Kanakuk founders, I believe them to be well-intentioned, good-hearted people who truly believe that they are doing God's work by keeping this camp running and slowly turning it into the small empire it has become.

That said, having a pervert working at these camps was inevitable. I'm only surprised that it took this long for such a scandal to break, because the fact is that Kanakuk camps are a predator's paradise. The reasons:

#1. The staff of Kanakuk are incredibly naive (or used to be, anyway), putting total trust in anyone who looks, behaves, and talks like one of their own. (On the flip side, they're also incredibly closed to even really well-qualified folks who don't fit with their sub-culture.

#2. The "kamp" culture really lends itself to grooming behaviors for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is the lack of boundaries between staff and kids. When I was a camper, the counselors were with us 24/7 and there were plenty of opportunities for one-on-one contact. Staff were all incredibly affectionate with us as well. If you didn't get hugged twelve times a day by men and women alike, it was because you did a lot of ducking and weaving. (In other words, one would have to intentionally avoid being touched there.) To top it off, the showers were communal (boys and men shower in together in one location, girls and women in another), which is not a bad thing, but it does provide ample opportunity for predators to window shop, so to speak.

#3. It is not an exaggeration to say that even the most well-intentioned of the Kanakuk staff are obsessed with sex in one way or another, and they talk about sexual issues with surprising openness and regularity to campers, and (to my knowledge) without parental consent. (My parents were amused to find out after the fact that the camp had attempted to influence me on sexual matters. I'm sure others were not so amused.) In fact, at the teen camps, sexual "purity" was such a strong underlying theme that even if you didn't have sex on the brain when you got to camp, you would have by the time you left! Plus, most of the counselors are incredibly cute and fit, with the men often parading around in nothing but shoes, socks, and shorts (because, you know, it would be inhumane to ask men NOT to go topless on a hot day). The sexual tension between the adults was palpable, too, because, of course, most of them aren't getting any.

For all of the above reasons and more, I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that dozens of predators had successfully used Kanakuk for elicit purposes, so, while I don't suspect the founders of actually being predators, I do hold them responsible for their campers being victimized BY a predator. After all, they provided the perfect environment, opportunity, and the perfect victims for a Peter Newman (and they allegedly knew about Peter Newman's proclivities in advance ad still trusted him! That is seriously bad judgement on their part.

I also doubt that the Kanakuk founders and directors ever bother to train themselves or their staff on how to spot predatory behaviors. (Rule #1 is "Ignore your emotions and instincts about people, and always be on the lookout for grooming behaviors!") I don't wish financial ruin upon them, but I do think it's fair for them to accept their fair share of the blame, and hope this will be a wake up to them.

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah! Let the truth finally, and publicly, come out and let the chips fall where they may. As a once-adoring kamp mom, I remain deeply disappointed and disillusioned by kamp leadership's lying publicly about this case.