Another Suit Filed Against Camp Good News
By: Mary Stanley
It was more bad news for Camp Good News, this week. Cheryl A. Madden of Daytona, Florida, has come forward claiming that in 1973, 1974, and 1975, when she was just 7, 8, and 9 years old, she was sexually abused by a janitor working at the facility on Route 130.
In a telephone interview yesterday afternoon, Ms. Madden said the janitor would spend all day in the bathroom and, when she went in there, he assaulted her.
“It got to the point where I would try to hold it and not even go to the bathroom,” she said.
Ms. Madden said on one occasion, a female camp counselor walked into the bathroom, saw her and the janitor together, and said nothing. “The counselor went to the bathroom and left,” Ms. Madden said.
Ms. Madden said the sexual assaults occurred each of the three summers that she stayed at Camp Good News and they happened throughout her two-week stays. “It happened on a daily basis or a near daily basis,” she said.
According to a claim filed in Barnstable Superior Court this week, Ms. Madden was sexually assaulted, battered, and raped.
Ms. Madden said she told nobody about the abuse out of fear. She said she was afraid that if she told her father, he would blame her mother. And, she said, her abuser told her that if she said anything to anyone, he would “kill her mother.”
Ms. Madden said she tried to suppress what happened to her. “I held onto it for years and years. I thought I dealt with it, but I dealt with it with alcohol,” she said.
Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Madden filed a civil suit against Faith Willard, Dr. Hope Willard Brooks and the Society for Christian Activities, (dba Camp Good News), seeking compensation for damages incurred by Ms. Madden as a result of the abuse.
“It’s really not about the money,” Ms. Madden said.
She explained that in 2009 while attending a reunion at Camp Good News, she told Dr. Brooks about the abuse.
“Hope asked me if I had a good time at the camp, and I just blurted out that I had been abused. I held nothing back,” she said.
Ms. Madden said in as much as she was shocked by the words that came out of her mouth, she was more shocked by the camp’s response. “They did nothing,” she said.
Ms. Madden said she only wanted to tell her story to them so that they could take action to ensure that all campers were properly protected.
But two years later, she said, nothing had changed, and nothing had been done.
She said on the day that Senator Scott Brown was due to be on the television show, “60 Minutes,” talking about his recently published autobiography, “Against All Odds,” in which he disclosed that he had been sexually abused at a Christian camp on Cape Cod, she received a call from Dr. Brooks. She said Dr. Brooks expressed concern that the disclosure was going to be bad publicity for the camp, even though Sen. Brown was not going to specifically name Camp Good News. “She asked me if I was going to say anything. I told her I had let that go a long time ago,” Ms. Madden said.
When asked about this telephone call, Dr. Brooks stated that she could not comment.
Ms. Madden said the controversy surrounding the camp in April of this year was just the “frosting on the cake.”
That is when Camp Good News came under fire after a 35-year-old man told Boston-based attorney Mitchell Garabedian that he had been molested at the camp in 1985. The victim identified 43-year-old Charles R. Devita, who was a camp counselor at the time of the attack, as his abuser. The Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Office and Massachusetts State Police, along with Sandwich police, immediately launched an investigation into the allegations. On Wednesday, April 6, police found Mr. Devita’s body in his pickup truck parked on the camp’s property, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
In the weeks following that incident, more than a dozen people came forward to Mr. Garabedian stating they had been abused while a camper at Camp Good News.
While officials at the camp denied any knowledge of the abuse and denied ever receiving information that Mr. Devita might have been harming the children there, Ms. Madden said she was disappointed with how officials handled this situation as well as her own.
“They treated both incidents the same way, which was no way. This is a Christian camp. If you believe in God, then you believe in doing the right thing,” she said.
Ms. Madden specified that Mr. Devita was not her abuser and, according to her claim, she does not know the name of the janitor nor the female counselor who observed him in the bathroom with her. Sen. Brown has never named his abuser.
Ms. Madden’s attorney, Carmen L. Durso of the Law Offices of Carmen Durso in Boston, said there are measures that organizations can take to prevent this kind of abuse.
He said the Centers for Disease Control treats sexual abuse as a major health problem and has put out publications stating what should be done in terms of training, recognition and responding to claims of sexual abuse. He said the procedures and policies put in place at Camp Good News are the antithesis to what the CDC recommends.
“We’re talking about 30 years’ worth of abuse. It is impossible not to be aware that something was going on there,” Mr. Durso said.
He said an adult male never should have been allowed to be in a girl’s bathroom while the children were using the facility. “If the bathroom is being cleaned, then a sign is put up stating that the facility is out of service. How they did not take the steps necessary to protect the children is mind-blowing,” Mr. Durso said.
Dr. Brooks said she could not comment on the lawsuit nor any of Ms. Madden’s allegations.
Camp Good News lost its accreditation on April 8, and, a week later, camp officials made the decision not to open the camp this year.
Camp Good News was founded in 1935 by W. Wyeth and Grace Willard. Although founded and led by Christians, the camp has been open to campers from all religious and non-religious backgrounds. Its mission is to help young people discover the relevance of the Bible and assist them in exploring meaning and direction for living. Leadership at the camp encourages young people to choose worthy and unselfish goals in life.