Just weeks after dozens of sexual assault charges were laid against one of its board members in a series of incidents in the Lower Mainland, Cowichan River Bible Camp has been alleged as the scene of other assaults.
Surrey pastor Samuel Emerson, who was a board member of the bible camp, has been charged with 25 criminal code offences related to at least five victims, including: 13 counts of sexual assault, 11 counts of being in position of authority and touching a person for a sexual purpose and one count of sexual touching of a person under the age of 16.
Camp general director Gerald Wall confirmed this week the camp has cut ties with Samuel after police announced the charges earlier this month.
Samuel’s wife, Madelaine Emerson, 37, has also been charged with one count of sexual assault, one count of being in a position of authority and touching a person for a sexual purpose, and one count of threats to cause death or bodily harm.
Court documents show most of the offences are alleged to have taken place in Surrey, where until his arrest, Emerson was a pastor at the Cloverdale Christian Fellowship.
One alleged sexual assault, according to court documents, occurred in or near Cowichan Bay between July and August 2014.
Duncan resident Alexis Masur attended Cowichan River Bible Camp on River bottom Road for four years starting when she was 15. She alleges she, and others, were assaulted at the camp and at the affiliated Oasis church by an adult that was not Emerson.
“It started out with really long hugs, then their face would get closer to me and they would start giving me kisses on the cheek and then they’d start kissing me on the lips and then the next thing you know they’re caressing me to the point where they’re touching my genitals,” she explained.
She said she knew what they were doing was wrong but she felt powerless.
“They were a really well respected leader in the church and respected at the camp too,” she said. “This person was smart, they knew how to make me take blame. I was so afraid that if I said it out loud that I would never be loved again. This person had power, and if I said a peep, almost everyone I respected would turn on me in an instant.”
Masur is haunted by the youth she left behind.
“When I left that church, I ran, and I never looked back. But I always feel guilty because I know if I had stayed, and fought that I could prevented other people from having the same thing happen to them,” she said.
Masur’s allegations took Wall by surprise.
“This is news,” he said Tuesday morning. “I won’t respond to that right now. All I know is that we do have protocols in place for our staff and that this comes out of left field. I have no prior knowledge of this. Until we have some confirmation through the RCMP, I won’t respond any further.”
Police are now calling on other victims to come forward.
“Calling the police to report a sexual assault is a very difficult thing to do especially when the suspect is someone you knew and trusted, and can leave lifelong emotional scars,” said Cpl. Scotty Schumann. “Our highly skilled investigators take sexual assaults very seriously, and, supported by our Surrey RCMP Victim Services workers, are here to listen and provide emotional support.”
On Tuesday morning Wall said the camp had more than 60 years of history and “thousands of great, kind and trustworthy individuals and leaders who have and continue to make Cowichan Camp a great place.”
“In the light of unfolding information and charges involving Samuel and Madelaine Emerson, we first want to extend our prayers and support for the victims of these reported [alleged] events. Words do not soften the pain of those victimized or take away the shock of those on the periphery.
“When the first news of these allegations were brought to light the Emersons were removed from our summer guest speaker lineup and Samuel resigned his position on the Board of Directors. They have not been to camp since,” Wall said. “We know that only a small portion of the Emerson’s itinerary involved time at Cowichan Camp, but we would encourage anyone who may have been a victim of the accused to reach out to the authorities.”
Masur has not reported her complaint to the RCMP.