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Alleging sexual abuse in 1970s, woman sues Camp Good News

Cheryl Ann Madden, 45, of Daytona Beach, Fla., spoke during a press conference in her lawyer's office in Boston yesterday. Cheryl Ann Madden, 45, of Daytona Beach, Fla., spoke during a press conference in her lawyer's office in Boston yesterday. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / August 19, 2011

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A woman who attended the same camp on Cape Cod where US Senator Scott Brown was allegedly sexually abused as a boy is asserting in a lawsuit that she was repeatedly assaulted by a janitor at the camp in a girls’ bathroom and that camp officials did nothing to protect her.

“Child molestation hell is what they put me through,’’ Cheryl A. Madden, 45, of Daytona Beach, Fla., said during a news conference yesterday in the Boston office of her attorney, Carmen L. Durso.

Madden is seeking unspecified financial damages in Barnstable Superior Court in the suit against Camp Good News, two of its executives, her alleged abuser, and a counselor who she said was in the bathroom during one of the incidents but took no action.

Madden said during the news conference that the abuse by the janitor, whose name she does not remember, began in 1973 when she was 7 and continued over the next two summers.

She said she does not remember the name of the counselor, either.

She described the janitor as a tall, thin man with greasy brown hair and the counselor as a heavyset female with short brown hair.

Madden said she told her mother that she could not return for a fourth summer because of the abuse.

“I was sick of being fondled and humiliated by someone at the camp,’’ she said.

The camp denied the allegations in a statement released on its behalf by ML Strategies, a Boston consulting group.

“We are well aware of the plaintiff’s allegations and believe there is no merit to them. We look forward to challenging the specifics in court,’’ the statement said.

According to the civil complaint, Madden did not “remember and/or understand’’ that she had been harmed until April 2009. She said yesterday that her father, Bob Madden, who used to beat her, died at that time and left $111,000 to the camp, “his way of thanking them’’ for the janitor’s alleged conduct.

“My father was a . . . sadistic, narcissistic person,’’ she said.

She said she called camp official Hope Brooks, one of the defendants named in the suit, shortly after her father’s death to tell her about the gift. When Brooks asked if she had enjoyed her time as a camper, Madden said she informed her that she had been molested there.

She said she later sent her son to the camp, first in 2009 when he was 15 and again the following summer, because she thought her abuse was an “isolated incident.’’

However, Madden said, Brooks called her in February, shortly before Brown was about to make his revelation, and told her that the senator would not be naming the camp. Madden said Brooks asked her if she planned to go public with her allegations of sexual abuse, and she replied that she did not and that the camp should admit to its mistakes.

“It is interesting to note that she maintained close contact with camp officials for more than two decades after her alleged abuse and even sent her own son to the camp as recently as last year,’’ the camp said in its statement. “The fact that her late father left a significant amount of money to the Camp, some of which the Camp returned to the plaintiff, may also be a factor in her filing suit.’’

Madden said yesterday that the camp returned some of the money but declined to say how much.

Brown revealed in February that he had been abused by a male counselor at a Christian camp on the Cape, later identified as Camp Good News.

The camp issued an apology to Brown, but his revelation has prompted more than a dozen former campers to come forward with allegations of abuse at the hands of multiple staffers.

The camp canceled its summer offerings this year, citing a need for an internal review in light of the allegations. The camp also said at the time that it was cooperating fully with a separate investigation being conducted by the Cape and Islands district attorney’s office.

District Attorney Michael D. O’Keefe said last night that the investigation is ongoing and it is too early to speak to the likelihood of any criminal charges being brought.

In April, longtime camp employee Charles Devita committed suicide after allegations surfaced that he had abused campers.

Madden said that Devita’s suicide was a major factor in prompting her to move forward with the lawsuit.

According to her civil complaint, the defendants knew or should have known that the janitor was “engaged in illegal and inappropriate sexual conduct with young girls at the camp.’’ The complaint also alleges that camp officials “fraudulently suppressed, concealed, and intentionally prevented the disclosure of the sexual abuse of children at the camp.’’

Durso and Madden both said yesterday that the motivation for filing the suit is not money but holding the camp accountable and protecting children against abuse in the future.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.com.