6 Decades Later, Abuse at Camp Still Affects His Life

'USA Today' explores the lasting trauma of abuse at Vermont's Camp Najerog in 1950s
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2022 4:30 PM CST
He's Speaking Out About Camp Abuse 6 Decades Ago
   (Getty/Alexander Fattal)

(Newser) – The sexual abuse occurred more than six decades ago at an idyllic summer camp in Vermont. But as Alia E. Dastagir writes in a lengthy account at USA Today, it continues to have a profound impact on the life of at least one of the victims. The piece recounts how a young male counselor at Camp Najerog in the late 1950s abused at least four boys before he was caught and sent packing (apparently without the police getting involved). Dastagir interviews three of the victims, especially Peter Wien, who was only about 10 when the abuse began. "I belong to an era of men who were hammered into guilt and silence by our abusers and those who knew of it,” Wein says. “I couldn't turn to people who could see my terror, my frustration, and do anything about it. ... I was a young, innocent child, and I trusted he cared about me. I trusted when he told me that he loved me."

The story explores the lasting impact on Wein's life, and how trauma manifests differently in different victims. Wein, for example, estimates he has had 2,000 sexual partners in adulthood, all of them without intimacy. He's struggled with his sexual identity, and has never married or been able to hold down a job. His abuser "co-opted (his) entire sexual identity," says a psychotherapist. Dastagir interviews two other victims whose lives remained on track. One became a state senator, the other a judge. "I'm not sure what the difference (was)—how we came out of the tunnel so differently," says one of them. The other man has Parkinson's and needed his wife of 50 years to be in on the phone call, and it was on that call she first learned of her husband's abuse. Read the full story, in which Dastagir seems to track down the abuser, but he denies ever working at the camp. (Read more child abuse stories.)

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