WILLFUL IGNORANCE may still be an all-too-common response to child sexual abuse, but the allegations emerging about incidents at Camp Good News, the popular religious summer camp on Cape Cod attended by a young Scott Brown, are especially dispiriting. If the claims turn out to be true, camp officials repeatedly ignored warnings about sexual abusers working at the camp, including longtime employee Charles Devita, who committed suicide this week at age 43. Devita’s estranged mother stepped forward Wednesday to disclose that she had expressed concerns to camp leaders decades ago that her son was abusing young boys. Despite that warning, the camp continued to employ Devita. So it shouldn’t have come as much of surprise in 2002 when a camp counselor filed a police report alleging that he had repeatedly found child pornography on Devita’s computer. Bafflingly, camp officials again brushed off the allegations.
Ignoring these incidents may not have been so unusual 50 years ago, when child sexual abuse was rarely, if ever, discussed. But awareness and sensitivity are greater today. This tragic case should serve as a reminder to organizations working with young people that every reported case of sexual abuse should be taken seriously. While not all accusations turn out to be true, every allegation requires a thorough and sober investigation.
As summer vacation approaches, Camp Good News’s troubles are no doubt weighing on the minds of many parents. Concerned moms and dads should resist keeping their kids home to guarantee their safety. But they should feel empowered to ask program organizers about their policies concerning reports of sexual abuse. And officials should be prepared to address those concerns — not simply brush them under the rug.