Parents Should Be 'Activists' for Their Kids' Safety Amid Reports of Sex Abuse at Summer Camp, Expert Says
“We are not anti-camp, and we don't want you to pull your kids out of camp. But what we want you to do is to join us in the conversations. Be frontline activists for the safety of your children. Ask questions,” the CEO of Crime Stoppers of Houston says.
At camp La Junta in Texas, the slogan is "Life is good, camp is better." The elite boys camp has been in existence for over 90 years, but what a youngster says happened to him at the camp is heartbreaking.
In video provided to Inside Edition by the 11-year-old’s parents, the boy tells a forensic psychologist that he was touched inappropriately by a La Junta camp counselor in 2009.
Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious says sexual abuse at camps are a disturbing trend that some have compared to the Boy Scouts scandal.
“We've found over 1,000 victims of sexual assault, just sexual assault, at camps across the country, spanning over the last 10 to 15 years,” Mankarious said.
An Inside Edition investigation discovered multiple instances of counselors who were found guilty of sexual misconduct offenses at camps across the country.
The 11-year-old camper told the psychologist he wrote a letter from camp that he sent to his parents, hinting at issues that are difficult for kids to discuss.
“It is not fun anymore. You won't believe this. I had to take a shower six times as punishments that were not fair...I want to go home. P.S. Please do something,” he wrote.
“You had a predator at the camp who was grooming children, and the kids were not being protected against that predator,” Mankarious said.
Mason Hunt was 16 and a counselor-in-training at Camp La Junta when he says he saw counselor Matthew Bovee acting inappropriately with other campers in 2009.
“I saw him kissing their foreheads,” Bovee said.
Hunt says he reported Bovee to the senior staff, but he says he was ignored.
“From my understanding, they did not take it seriously whatsoever,” Hunt said.
In a police interrogation video, the accused counselor insisted he was innocent.
“I swear I never ever touched a kid inappropriately. I put so much time into these kids,” Bovee said.
In 2011, Bovee accepted a plea deal and got probation, but he later violated the terms of his release by communicating with children and ended up serving nine years in prison.
“We are not anti-camp, and we don't want you to pull your kids out of camp. But what we want you to do is to join us in the conversations. Be frontline activists for the safety of your children. Ask questions,” Mankarious said.
Without admitting any wrongdoing, Camp La Junta settled a lawsuit filed by the boy's family. In a statement, the camp says: “Over the years this heartbreaking story has been a continuous motivator for us to learn about and implement new methods for safety and preventing abuse. After nearly a century of service, we remain dedicated to providing a rewarding experience for our campers every year.”
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