Documentary Reporting on Sexual Abuse Allegations at Kanakuk Wins Emmy Award
A documentary made by VICE News about the alleged sexual abuse cases at Kanakuk camps in southwest Missouri won a 2022 Emmy award for “Outstanding Hard News Feature Story: Long Form.”
The 17-minute film, “A Christian Summer Camp’s History of Abuse,” features interviews with survivors and gives details about litigation and settlements that have occurred.
“We’re so grateful for everyone who trusted us and shared their stories,” VICE News correspondent Meena Duerson said of the award. “We’ve been blown away by the incredible courage of these survivors and their families, and we were honored to be able to help shine a light in pursuit of accountability at Kanakuk.”
VICE news is part of a media group that began in Canada in the 1990s with an eye to the youth of the world as its audience. Now it often focuses on events that “may not be as well covered by other news sources.”
Founded in 1926, Kanakuk is no ordinary summer camp. The elaborate up-scale sports camp costs about $2,500 for a two-week session. Wealthy families from places like Dallas often send their kids to Kanakuk for several weeks of the summer, year after year.
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Kanakuk’s leader, Joe White, claims to have served over 500,000 youth from all fifty states and around the world during its history.
In 2010, one of the camp’s senior counselors, Pete Newman, pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexually abusing boys. He is serving two life sentences plus 30 years in prison.
Earlier this year in response to a letter by victims, Kanakuk posted a statement expressing its regret and continuing support for victims, saying it “has continued to work tirelessly to help ensure that this deeply deceptive and abusive behavior does not happen again.”
It has developed the “Kanakuk Child Protection Plan,” in response to the abuse allegations and the plan “has been shared with more than 600 youth-serving organizations across the country.”
Facts About Kanakuk is an advocacy website “where victims of Kanakuk abuse can finally feel seen, believed and supported. At a minimum, we want their pain, suffering, silencing, and deaths to be acknowledged.”
The website includes a petition by abuse survivors asking Kanakuk for three courses of action: (1) admit to known failures, (2) release victims from non-disclosure agreements, and (3) conduct an independent investigation.
“The survivor community celebrates this moment and appreciates the exposure of an Emmy Award after years of legal intimidation, silencing, and ongoing abuse at the hands of Kanakuk and its leadership,” said a spokesperson for Facts About Kanakuk who prefers to remain anonymous due to ongoing legal threats from Kanakuk.