by Adam Horowitz

More facts continue to be gathered and shared about what had previously been a well-kept secret within one of the largest Christian missionary organizations of the world. There are mounting accounts from all corners of the globe of an institutional pattern of child sexual abuse and physical torture of missionary kids by dormitory parents of New Tribes Mission (NTM). NTM is an international, evangelical Christian missionary organization with its worldwide headquarters in Sanford, Florida. NTM sends missionaries and their children from local churches around the world to underdeveloped countries in Latin America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. NTM’s mission is to spread Christianity around the world.

In 2010, a third-party, GRACE, conducted an exhaustive inquiry into reports of child sex abuse at New Tribes Mission Fanda School in Senegal. The report exposed a shocking pattern of widespread neglect and abuse of vulnerable children. More recently, accounts of the same institutional abuse are emerging in other parts of the world where NTM missionaries committed many of the same acts, including Panama, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea.

No matter the country or region of the world, there is a similar pattern to each of these accounts. NTM missionaries spend much of their time “in the field” spreading Christianity to small towns and villages around the world. NTM generally requires the children of the missionaries, known as missionary kids, to live in dormitories owned and operated by NTM. Similarly, the children often attend schools operated by NTM. NTM assigned “dorm parents” the duty to supervise, nurture, and develop the missionary children while their parents are attending to the mission of NTM. NTM literature explains that they are organized in this manner to allow parents to concentrate on their holy mission, rather than be distracted while caring for their children. As a result of this structure, the children become highly dependent on their “dorm parents” who are expected to play an instrumental role in their development while their parents are away for long stretches of time.

For many years, numerous missionary kids (known as “MK’s”) suffered in silence enduring both physical and sexual abuse. Accounts of the abuse were not isolated to a single mission or a particular dorm parents. According to published reports, the abuse was widespread in multiple dormitories. These dorm parents entrusted with the responsibility of nurturing these children used their authority to betray these children and engage in horrific acts of abuse. Not only was corporal punishment accepted, but there are reports of widespread sexual abuse with little to no accountability for the perpetrators. The remoteness of the overseas villages, the insular community, the threats requiring secrecy, and the authority of the perpetrators fostered an atmosphere that allowed these abusive conditions to persist and become an institutional pattern. Needless to say, the abuse has caused a ripple effect affecting not only the abused children but also their entire families and communities.

In recent years, the MK’s have shared accounts with other of their own experiences and begun the difficult process of reporting the abuse to NTM authorities. Many of these cases have been settled though mediation while others have moved forward into litigation where personnel records and other damaging evidence linking the negligence of NTM leaders to the abuse can be obtained. The abuse within NTM is an institutional problem and it is not limited to the 1970’s and 1980’s. In 2013, an NTM missionary was arrested by federal officials on child abuse and pornography charges while in possession of a hard drive with images of him abusing children.

Our attorneys are highly experienced in representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse by New Tribes Missionaries in civil lawsuits. We have overcome motions to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds in lawsuits filed against New Tribes Missions. Although the underlying abuse in these New Tribes Mission lawsuits occurred overseas, these lawsuits can be brought in Florida courts because New Tribes Mission is based in Sanford, Florida.

If you or someone you know was a victim of child sexual abuse by someone affiliated with the New Tribes Missions, please contact our law firm at (954) 524-2820 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected]