More Abuse Allegations Made In Camp Good News Case
By: Mary Stanley
Senator Scott Brown’s revelation two months ago in his book “Against All Odds,” that he had been sexually assaulted as a child at a Christian camp on Cape Cod, set off a chain of events that resulted this week in the suicide of a 43-year-old Sandwich man.
Charles R. Devita was found dead Wednesday morning in his red pickup truck at Camp Good News in Forestdale, where he was employed as facilities manager. The apparent cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head, police said.
At the time of his death, Mr. Devita was the focus of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a 10-year-old boy at the pondfront day and overnight camp during the summer of 1985. At the time of the alleged assault, Mr. Devita worked at Camp Good News as a camp counselor, according to investigators.
The death of Mr. Devita, an active parishioner at Gateway Christian Center on Route 130 in Mashpee, came as a shock to his religious community, as did the news of the accusations leveled against him.
“He was the most faithful parishioner. In the 11 years that he was a parishioner here, there was not one negative word said about him, but plenty of good comments,” said Robert Condon, the pastor at Gateway Christian Center. “He had a servant’s heart. He volunteered at the church. He would make food for people and, when it snowed, he would plow driveways, free of charge. He was the most giving kind of person. His character was above reproach.”
While Sen. Brown has publicly said that he did not know Mr. Devita and that he was not the man who molested him, it was the revelations in the senator’s autobiography that empowered another person to step forward and identify Mr. Devita as his abuser, triggering an investigation into the longtime camp employee.
And now Mr. Devita’s sudden death has left that victim without the justice he had hoped for.
“My client is in a state of emotional upheaval. He is saddened that a person has died and saddened that a criminal case against Mr. Devita will not be pursued. He wanted to confront Mr. Devita in court,” said Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian who is representing the 36-year-old victim.
On Wednesday morning, responding to a report of a gunshot near Camp Good News, police found Mr. Devita’s lifeless body inside his pickup parked in the woods behind the Route 130 camp. His death came just two days after Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael J. O’Keefe and state police launched an investigation into the allegations against Mr. Devita.
According to numerous media reports, he left notes for loved ones and, in one of the notes, indicated that he was tired of being accused of molesting children.
Since The Boston Globe broke the story about the investigation Tuesday morning, Mr. Garabedian said additional victims have contacted him. At least two others are claiming to have been molested by Mr. Devita and a fourth victim is claiming to have been molested while at Camp Good News but by a different person.
He said he received another call on Wednesday night from a fifth possible victim and a sixth possible victim contacted him yesterday.
The attorney, who is noted for his representation of sexual abuse victims in the Catholic Church scandal of the 1990s and 2000s, said he is not surprised by the number of victims now speaking up. He said in cases like this, when one person reveals his story, it emboldens other victims to come forward.
“My client was inspired by Sen. Brown. When a highly visible, public person like Scott Brown comes forward and says, ‘This happened to me,’ it’s not unusual for other people to have the courage to come forward. It’s a domino effect and momentum builds,” Mr. Garabedian said.
Licensed independent clinical social worker Tamara F. Hillard with Children’s Cove in Yarmouth, a child advocacy center aimed at assisting children who are the victims of sexual assault, said this momentum is a necessary component for ending the cycle of sexual abuse.
“Even if only three or four victims come forward, it frees them up emotionally and it empowers others to speak up,” she said.
Ms. Hillard said it is often guilt and shame that prevents victims from accusing their abusers. But, she said, until even one person does so, the abuse continues.
According to the Camp Good News website, “supervision of campers is excellent and carefully considered. All staff members undergo and must pass criminal background checks. They also receive 10 days of pre-camp training by licensed education and health professionals.”
Ms. Hillard noted that criminal background checks are not guarantees that an individual will not harm children. She said for every one pedophile known to police, there are probably 20 who have not been caught and have no criminal background.
Ms. Hillard said she was surprised by the news of Mr. Devita’s death. She said very few people who are accused or even convicted of child sexual abuse take their own life.
“Very few will react in this way. It is very, very rare,” she said.
She said sexual abuse has many far-reaching and long-lasting consequences on victims, well after the abuse has stopped. These consequences typically involve unhealthy relationships, abuse of drugs or alcohol, promiscuous behavior, especially for girls, and, in some cases, not having any relationship with people of the opposite sex. She said until a victim receives treatment with a licensed therapist who specializes in the field, they continue to carry the baggage and scars of the abuse.
“It is never too late to get help,” she said.
Ms. Hillard said she was especially alarmed by reports that the camp did not heed warnings about Mr. Devita. She referenced a statement issued by his mother, Sandra Devita of Florida, who said she reported concerns about her son’s behavior to camp officials.
In a telephone interview this week, Ms. Devita, who had been estranged from her son for the past 19 years, said, “I view him as a very sick individual who should have admitted what he was doing, because I could have helped him.” As a sexual abuse investigator for New York City, she was aware of the signs of an abuser and expressed that concern to camp officials 19 years ago, but “they blew it off.”
Camp Good News issued a statement this week saying that former camp director Faith Willard only spoke with Ms. Devita once and that conversation was about having Mr. Devita contact his mother.
“The truth of the matter is that she was more concerned that my son was gay,” Ms. Devita said. She said she believes her son’s suicide indicates that he did commit the abuse.
Ms. Hillard said it is a powerful message when a mother issues a concern that her son might be an abuser.
The statement was powerful enough for Mr. Garabedian to consider pursuing a civil suit against the camp.
“What did the supervisors know and what did they do about it? Something is amiss at Camp Good News,” Mr. Garabedian said.
The district attorney’s office issued a statement Wednesday stating that it planned to continue its investigation.
“Notwithstanding the discovery today, any and all allegations of abuse will continue to be investigated concerning this camp. The matter remains under investigation by Sandwich Police and the Massachusetts State Police Detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office,” according to the statement. Neither the district attorney’s office nor the Sandwich Police Department would comment any further on the matter, because it is an active investigation.
Calls made to Camp Good News from The Sandwich Enterprise seeking comment were not returned this week.
Camp Good News is on 214 acres of land overlooking Snake Pond. It was founded in 1935 by W. Wyeth and Grace Willard. Although founded and led by Christians, the camp is 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.
Jane T. Brooks is the camp’s current director and longtime Sandwich pediatrician Hope W. Brooks, who ran a pediatric office next door to the camp, is its deputy director. Dr. Steven Brooks is the camp’s president.
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