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'The most intense violation of my life': A beloved camp, a lost boy and the lifelong impact of child sexual trauma

Sugar Maples
American Beech
Harold "Kid" Gore
the University of Massachusetts Amherst
the Waldorf Astoria
the Vermont State Senate
American University
the Maine District Court
the University of Vermont
the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
the Boy Scouts
The Wilmington Police Department
Department for Children and Family Services
the American Psychiatric Association
the Catholic Church
Penn State
Boy Scouts of America
the National Sexual Assault Hotline
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center

Peter Wien
Norman Kibby Nicholson
Darius Batmanglidj
Vivian Holmes
Nancy Gyuro-Sultzer
Doug Clapp
Kid Gore
Norm Nicholson
Judy asked."Nicholson
Norman Nicholson
James Cantor
Anna Salter
Sharon Imperato
Jim Struve
Chris Gore
Nora Gluck


Lake Raponda
New England

the St. Marks Baths

New York
New York City
Washington, D.C.
St. Petersburg

No matching tags

Positivity     44.00%   
   Negativity   56.00%
The New York Times
Write a review: USA Today

Biting was how Peter managed what was happening at camp.He doesn't remember how the abuse began, only the way it persisted – in the cabin in the afternoon, above the barn, when walking to the lake. Peter said the abuse occurred over multiple summers in the late 1950s at Vermont's Camp Najerog, where parents sent their sons for an education on the outdoors. Fears of being seen as gay can contribute to feelings of shame and a desire to hide the abuse, especially when their bodies have sexual responses under violence (which is physiologically normal for any survivor)."I belong to an era of men who were hammered into guilt and silence by our abusers and those who knew of it,” Peter said. Norman was a counselor at Najerog for several years, well-liked by the administration and many of the boys, and when the abuse first began, Peter said there was a part of him that reveled in Norman's attention. After the abuse, Peter was never the same boy, but back then, many parents still weren't connecting behaviors to feelings, still wouldn't have thought to ask: "Why are you biting your hand? Peter said, conservatively, that he has had sex with at least 2,000 people.“I regret every minute of it,” he said.When a person is victimized at a young age, switches can get turned on prematurely, which can lead to compulsive sexual behaviors. This is my story.’ I've heard him say that a number of times, ‘This is my story.’ One time he said, 'This is my story, which has become me over who I am.'"Peter always wanted to know if there were other boys who said Norman abused them. And something else, too."Norm Nicholson," Eldred said.Eldred said Norman abused several boys in their cabin: himself, Peter and two others.He said the four of them talked about it at camp, and he remembers this vividly, standing on the tennis courts as they broke silence. Afterward, Eldred said there was relief, but something else, too: compassion for Norman, which sexual violence experts say can happen when survivors feel a sense of connection and care toward the person who is abusing them. I'm so sorry it's come to this.'"Eldred revealed the names of two other boys who shared their cabin and who he said Norman also abused. "I was also abused," he said.Doug said he could remember the counselor's name, but when he tried to say it, it escaped him. Doug said Norman would abuse boys in their cabin, sometimes while other children slept. Doug doesn't remember a specific conversation with Eldred or Peter about the abuse, though he recalled it became an open secret. He denied working at Camp Najerog or knowing Peter Wien, Eldred French or Doug Clapp.Peter, Eldred and Doug all refer to Norman as a pedophile. It's neurological," said James Cantor, a clinical psychologist, sex researcher and former editor-in-chief of the journal "Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment.”  Pedophilia is often used as a synonym for child molestation, but experts say some pedophiles never hurt children, and some people who sexually abuse children are not pedophiles – they may molest kids because they are disinhibited, vengeful or afraid of adult sexual partners. "Pedophiles may not have control over the fact that they are attracted to kids, but they are responsible for whether they do or don't act on it," she said.Peter, Eldred and Doug all say Norman sexually abused them, and eventually, he was fired from the camp. Eldred and Doug said they were abused one summer. Peter said he was abused over multiple summers.There were differences in the level of accountability and support. Doug remembers the town doctor trying to talk to them and remembers that his father reached out, even if it wasn't a conversation Doug was willing to have.But Peter said he wasn't there the summer Norman was fired. He said no adults ever reached out to him, not to try to understand why he was begging to go to a military academy over an idyllic summer camp, not when Norman got caught, to see if perhaps Peter, who also had Norman as a counselor, had been a part of that abuse during Norman's summers at Najerog. When he was biting and suffering, Peter felt his family was oblivious to his cries for help, and when he did eventually disclose to his brother, he said he told him that the abuse never happened and that he was hallucinating. Didn't want to see.All of these moments, the subtle and profound, likely influenced the ways in which Peter, Eldred and Doug reacted to the abuse, and experts who counsel victims of sexual violence say all of those reactions are valid. And the answer is everything – everything that a trauma survivor tells you is a normal reaction," said Sharon Imperato, a counselor and trainer with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center who has worked with survivors of sexual trauma for two decades.Many men who've experienced sexual abuse face challenges in healing and seeking help because of the cultural commentary around masculinity. Big winners in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy: Attorneys, who could walk away with $1 billion"I couldn't hold a freaking job to save my life, but I got elected as a councilman because I was so vehemently into protecting people," he said.Poindexter, the psychotherapist who specializes in trauma, said survivors of sexual abuse can struggle with situations that make them feel a loss of power or control. Peter said he suspects he failed in his career because he was resistant to authority, to ever feeling controlled again.Among the most notable distinctions between Peter and Eldred and Doug is that Eldred and Doug don't blame the camp for what happened and don't find fault in its response. Peter said that if the camp didn't report Norman to the police, their response wasn't good enough.It's not known whether Gore or any parents reported Norman to the authorities, though none of the victims USA TODAY spoke with were interviewed by local law enforcement. He said he was never told of any abuse at camp and therefore has no knowledge of whether Norman was ever reported to police.Salter, an expert on high-risk sex offenders, said if the camp didn't go to the police, then it "didn't do enough, but the camp was way ahead of its time in what it did do.""If they'd fired him and contacted at least some of the families, they did more than 99% of places would have done at the time," she said. But when Norman's perpetration was discovered, he wishes at least one adult would have asked, "Did Norman hurt you, too?" Peter started opening up about his abuse in his late 20s, to friends and to therapists, though finding good care has been difficult. Gluck said she and Peter worked together for less than a year. It was a difficult, difficult situation to deal with."Gluck said it was obvious Peter was traumatized by the sexual abuse, but his family's reactions to his turmoil compounded the harm. survivors have to be the ones who are outraged?"When Peter learned what Eldred and Doug disclosed, he was stunned and affirmed."Wow," he said quietly, before unleashing a rare laugh. When USA TODAY reached Gore's grandson, Chris, he said his family is protective of Najerog – it's not just a camp his grandfather founded, it's a family legacy – but that reverence for his grandfather doesn't invalidate what happened to Peter.

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