Five former members of the evangelical christian group once know as New Tribes Mission have spoken out about the horrendous sex abuse they suffered as children.
The women attended mission schools in both the Philippines and Senegal between 1980 and the early 1990s.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, they say two ‘dorm dads’ entrusted with caring for them instead exploited their positions as caretakers to sexually molest and assault them.
‘Dorm dads’ – and moms – would conduct nightly bible readings for the boys and girls at the boarding schools, with some as young as six, in their bedrooms.
But as the lights went out, the women say two men – at two separate schools – stayed and lingered in the room, waiting for the children to drift off to sleep.
Under the cover of darkness, the men would reportedly forgo their religious beliefs and instead act on their depraved urges.
One of the ‘dads’ also invented a game where he would hide a seashell in his bathing suit and ask young girls to feel around and find it.
Though 30 years have passed since the attacks were alleged to have taken place, one victim says ‘it’s a hell’ she still lives with today.
‘He put his hands under the covers and would touch me,’ said a separate victim, Joy Drake to NBC, who claims she was abused from age nine.
‘I would pretend that I was sleeping because I was terrified that he would get angry or something worse would happen if I moved.
‘So I’d hold my breath and wait till it was over.’
Drake was a student at the Aritao school in the Philippines in the late 80s, once ran by the New Tribes Mission, which have since changed their name to Ethnos 360.
The Florida-based missionary group was founded in 1942 and work all over the world, often in some of the most hard-to-reach and impoverished places.
Drake identifies caretaker Leslie Emory as her attacker – and she isn’t alone in her allegations.
Jaasiel Mashek says she too was repeatedly abused by ‘Uncle Les’, at the Aritao school, when she was just six.
Mashek says she was too young to remember the specifics of her abuse, but a letter written by Emory in 1993 confirmed he did molest her.
His daughter, Kelly Emory, slept in the same dorm as Drake and Mashek – and she says she was abused by her father, who portrayed himself as a devout Christian, as well.
According to her claims, Leslie began raping her at aged six in an ordeal that lasted for three years.
‘It’s a hell I still live with,’ she told NBC’s Kate Snow.
Just like Drake, Kelly says she pretended to be asleep during the assaults.
After a suicidal episode, she finally plucked up the courage to report the allegations when she was 15, but says New Tribes failed to adequately address the problem.
‘They told me not to say anything. It was “my duty” to protect my family, to protect my dad.
‘If I did tell anybody, [New Tribes said] my dad would be thrown in jail.’
Kelly says she was sent away from the mission to a counseling session in Missouri, where she was declared ‘healed’ after two weeks.
In an phone interview with NBC, Emory admits to repeatedly abusing eight girls at the school, saying he should’ve been ‘decapitated’ for his depraved acts.
He denied ever abusing his daughter Kelly, though.
‘I am so externally sorry for what I did to them girls and I have no excuse,’ he said.
He was eventually banished from the organization, but the reason behind his departure was kept quiet.
Kelly says New Tribes tried to silence her claims, when she tried to do ‘the right thing’.
Several years before the abuse detailed by Drake, Emory and Mashek, a two-year-old Bonnie Cheshire arrived in Senegal with a different fleet of New Tribe missionaries.
The first five years at the school, Cheshire describes as ‘magical’, but after she turned seven ‘dorm dad’ Richard Brooks allegedly began preying on her.
It began with a game Cheshire once thought was innocent, she said.
Called the ‘seashell game’, Cheshire says Brooks would hide a shell in his bathing suit and urge young girls at the camp to rummage around and find it.
Not long after, Brooks – whose wife was acting as ‘dorm mom’ – would start coming into her room late at night.
She says Brooks started touching her sexually, and though she knew it ‘wasn’t right’, she wasn’t sure what else she could do but accept it.
An 8-year-old Kari Mikitson found herself in the same sickening position, despite sharing a room with Brooks’ daughter, she says.
‘[Brooks’ daughter] would fall asleep and he would just sit on my bed and stay too long,’ she said.
It’s ‘our secret’ Brooks allegedly told her.
After Mikitson went public with her story in a blog in 2009, an independent investigation of the Senegal school sanctioned by New Tribes confirmed an alarming history of sexual abuse at the school.
Up to 27 children claimed to have been abused during their stay at the supposed holy facility, and Brooks was found to be on of the most prolific culprits.
‘David Brooks often talked with these children about his close walk with the Lord while simultaneously abusing them,’ the report details.
‘He told these children not to tell, because bad things would happen and no one would believe them.’
Brooks was removed from the organisation in 1990.
When approached by NBC at his home in Williamson, Georgia, Brooks refused to comment on Mikitson and Cheshire’s claims.
Neither of the two men have ever been prosecuted for the allegations, as none of the crimes had been reported to local police, and laws making it possible to seek punishment for crimes committed against American children abroad only came into effect in 2003.
New Tribes changed its name to Ethnos 360 in 2017. It now only runs three schools, with a total of eight students.
Responding to NBC’s interview on Thursday, a spokesperson said: ‘As we watched the interviews of the victims of horrific abuse, we are heartsick.
‘The actions of the perpetrators go against everything we believe about the value of children and our responsibility to protect them.
‘Since those early days, our organization has incorporated significant child safety training, updated policies and extensive screening. These are mandatory for all members.
‘Again, we are heartbroken for the women who shared their painful stories on the recent Today Show. We remain committed to cooperating with any new or ongoing pursuit of prosecution of those who have harmed children.’
Thirty years on, Drake says she still sleeps at night with a pillow at each of her side – a tactic she used to try and protect herself from Emory.
She’s stayed true to her religious faith in the years since her time at the Aritao school, but says she’s lost faith in ‘people that claim to be godly.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Luke Kenton