Huffpost Crime

Religious Camp Counselor Allegedly Abused Teen Girl For Years

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NBC5 Chicago
NBC5 Chicago

An eyewitness is speaking out to support a woman's allegations of sexual abuse against her former counselor at a Christian summer camp in the mid-1990s.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, was 16 years old when she attended the religious Camp Awana, run by Chicago's North Side Gospel Center, where she says counselor Cherie Carlson repeatedly molested her during the summers 1996 and 1997.

"She said she was showing me God's love," Doe recalled to NBC 5 in Chicago last month. "Eventually the physical demands became constant. Sometimes maybe four times a week."

Doe has filed a lawsuit against Carlson alleging sexual abuse in the form of oral sex and penetration. She is also suing the church for not taking action against Carlson. Her lawsuit seeks $300,000 in damages.

An eyewitness to one of the alleged assaults, Monika Elby, corroborated Doe's story in an interview with NBC 5 on Thursday. Elby recalled that Carlson entered their shared cabin one night as other campers were going to bed.

“Cherie had her hand under the blanket and was fondling Jane’s genitalia,” Elby said. “I was mortified. I literally at that juncture I had just closed my eyes. I was waiting for it and praying for it to be over and for her to leave the cabin."

Elby said she did not tell camp authorities about the incident because the camp was run by Carlson's parents and "it didn’t seem like it would be well-received."

She also told NBC that another camper had accused Carlson of inappropriate touching in 1995. North Side Gospel Center, where Carlson also worked, denied the allegations during a church meeting at the time. The girl's family later left the church, according to Elby.

In her interview with NBC 5, Doe explained that she didn't go to the police at the time of the attacks because "[Carlson] said it would ruin her life and that she would kill herself if I told anyone."

Now in her 30s and a mother of two, Doe said she now feels it's her duty to speak up and prevent such abuse from happening to other girls.

NBC 5 has tried to contact Carlson with no response. She is currently on a paid leave of absence from her job at Cooper Middle School in Buffalo Grove, Ill., as the school investigates the allegations.

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