In the past 55 years, 578 kids have been allegedly sexually abused at children’s camps across the U.S., according to a bombshell CBS report.
The segment, which aired on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, found that in the past year alone, 21 children have been sexually abused.
A mother told CBS that her son was sexually molested by his camp counselor Matthew Bovee in 2009 at Camp La Junta in Kerr County, Texas.
In a recorded conversation with a psychologist obtained by the network, the son told the psychologist about Bovee’s wrongdoings.
“After you took a shower, you’d put on your towel, and he didn’t want you to wear underwear under it,” said the boy, who remained anonymous. “He would check all the kids, but under their towel … He wouldn’t look under there. He’d just stick his hand up.”
“I wanted to throw up,” his mom, who went by Jane Doe, told CBS. “I was nauseous. And all I could think of is to tell him I love him.”
Jon Conte, a social work professor at the University of Washington, says camps can sometimes foster opportunities for sexual predators.
“That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg,” Conte told CBS. “I think it’s isolation from parents, it’s out of a normal routine. Some kids are a little bit older and they’re feeling more independent, and they may have a false sense of security.”
More than 14 million kids are enrolled in camps yearly, and there are no required background checks for employees in 18 states, and eight states don’t require licenses for counselors who work at overnight camps. And possible criminal records for the 20,000 camp counselors who came from foreign countries last year may not show up in a background check, according to experts.
“It’s a big problem,” Rania Mankarious, chief executive officer at Crime Stoppers, told CBS. “If we can level the playing field, create national standards that all camps have to uphold to for accreditation, for licensing, for permitting, for certification, then you start making it more difficult for predators to find their way in.”
Bovee accepted a plea deal, a felony for injury a child, and was sentenced to 10 years probation and was then allowed to walk free. He, later on, violated his probation and is back in prison.
His victim’s family has settled a lawsuit with Camp La Junta for an undisclosed amount in 2016. The camp said in a statement that they “remain heartbroken over this camper’s 2009 experience.”
Meanwhile Jane Doe said that, “Camps are wonderful. Camps are a part of growing up. My other children attend camp. But I check very carefully, now, the camp. I don’t listen for a camp owner to tell me how the camp is.”
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