NCOSE will not include Kanakuk Kamps on this year’s ‘Dirty Dozen List.’ Our decision is not a statement that the situation at Kanakuk Kamps has been resolved. We are still deeply concerned about the welfare of children at the camp and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
For decades, thousands of families have entrusted their children’s hearts, minds, and safety to Kanakuk Kamps—one of the largest Christian sports camps. Tragically, in a deeply troubling array of instances, the safety of more than 150 children took a back seat to other considerations as years of child sexual abuse at Kanakuk Kamps have been covered up by the organization.
Survivors spoke out, but were both not heard by Kanakuk’s leadership and were not getting the attention of policy makers, law enforcement, or the media who could ensure things changed. As a result, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation stepped up to elevate the voices of survivors and to join them in calling for specific changes towards responsibility, accountability, and transparency at the camp.
Kanakuk Kamps was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen List. As a result of the increased attention from the campaign:
- Dozens more survivors reached out for help and were able to move further along in their journey to recovery
- Additional investigative reports and news articles have been published helping parents to understand the risks and calling on Kanakuk to make improvements. Many parents now know about the unfortunate abuses and cover-up at Kanakuk
- Kanakuk claims now to have had their child protection plan assessed, to be working with local authorities to ensure ongoing alignment on incident reporting and response, and to provide additional outside abuse and trauma training for staff
Unfortunately, we have not seen the kind of progress that we had hoped for from Kanakuk Kamps.
We initially asked for Kanakuk to make four changes and we have not seen much progress in these areas:
- Issue an annual transparency report regarding allegations of sexual abuse, including child-on-child harmful sexual behavior, with descriptions of how Kanakuk responded
- Release survivors from non-disclosure agreements they or their family members were pressured to sign in favor of protecting Kanakuk Kamps, so that they may further their healing and restoration progress by being free to speak about the childhood sexual abuse they endured at your institution
- Publicly acknowledge Kanakuk Kamp’s role in the decades of sexual abuse and the insufficient efforts to prevent such abuse with adequate practices and policies
- Proactively share Kanakuk’s full child protection policies with prospectve parents and the general public by posting them on the website and including them with promotional material
Further, alarming developments have taken place in just the recent past:
- As late as January 2023, a victim was put under NDA prohibiting them from speaking out about their experience. We have called on Kanakuk to discontinue the use of NDAs in settlements with victims of child sexual abuse as they are only meant to silence the victims and stop them from sharing what happened to them.
- While we have been told by some survivors that Kanakuk would let them out of their NDA, Kanakuk warned them against speaking out claiming the insurance company might hold them in contempt of the agreement. The insurance company works for Kanakuk. Kanakuk must tell the insurance company to side with survivors and allow them to tell their stories.
- Communications we have seen both directly to victims and to the media continue to downplay the realities victims experienced. Kanakuk still refuses to recognize that there are child abusers beyond Pete Newman who accessed children at their camps. Kanakuk still does not recognize that it made mistakes and enabled abuse to take place and even to flourish due to its poor policies. We expect institutions to accept responsibility and accountability.
Additionally, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation reviewed Kanakuk’s “Child Protection Plan” and found it to be far from adequate. What’s most alarming is that Kanakuk touts the plan as the best in the space and has used it to train 600 other ministries in how to protect children in similar settings. Two highly respected child protection experts in the field, Dr. Susan Bissell and Sarah Stevenson, did an independent review of their plan as well and found it also to be “insufficient and inadequate.” We are linking their review here and implore Kanakuk to incorporate these suggestions.
Other recent developments:
- Survivors of abuse at Kanakuk are lobbying for a new MO bill to change the laws to help survivors of childhood sexual assault.
- Judge sides with Kanakuk abuse survivor, allows fraud lawsuit to proceed
- More survivors have come forward to share their stories of abuse by Kanakuk team members.
Despite these ongoing concerns, NCOSE recognizes that survivors are leading the charge and are finally getting the attention of influencers who can ensure meaningful change takes place. NCOSE applauds the work being led by many survivors to expose institutional abuse and we pledge to continue to support their advocacy.
Additionally, we know that Kanakuk has contracted a trusted organization to help it make significant changes. We are hopeful that the camp will 1) listen to and prioritize the recommendations of survivors, and 2) move towards true responsibility, accountability, and transparency.
NCOSE will continue to monitor Kanakuk’s treatment of survivors and policies closely. We will add updates periodically to our webpage on Kanakuk. NCOSE regularly moves entities on and off the Dirty Dozen List strategically to achieve maximum impact of both awareness by the general public on these complex issues and to move mainstream contributors to sexual abuse to change.