ATLANTA - A metro Atlanta teen is speaking out about what he calls a horrifying experience at a military school in South Carolina.
“A good day for me was maybe I got punched three or four times,” the cadet said.
In an exclusive interview with Channel 2’s Mark Winne, the teen said he was beaten, starved, raped and pressured to keep quiet.
After Winne spent weeks investigating the allegations, the Camden Military Academy sent a statement late Tuesday defending itself.
“The safety of our students is paramount to everyone on staff here at CMA. Camden Military Academy does not tolerate hazing. In fact, CMA has a strict policy against it," headmaster Col. Eric Boland said.
But the alleged victim’s family is fighting back with a federal lawsuit.
The teen, identified only by his initials JBC, was 13 when he started attending CMA. Being from a military family, he thought the school would be a good fit. The school’s website says attendees are taught tradition and discipline, but the cadet said violence was a way of life.
“It would be easier to tell you the days I wasn't beaten there,” he told Winne.
According to the lawsuit, a gang of cadets beat him in the bathroom within days of his arrival. From then on, he suffered repeated beatings all over his body, and once had a plastic bag held over his head, the suit said. It also said he regularly went to bed hungry because older boys at his lunch table would take most of the food.
JBC, now 17, said he feared repercussions if he spoke out.
“The phrase is snitches get stitches,” he said.
His lawyer said the school turned a blind eye.
“He himself reported to the nurse at Camden 19 times with injuries serious enough for him to go seek medical treatment,” Keegan Federal said.
The teen’s mother said she sensed something was wrong, but the school repeatedly reassured her he was fine. Eventually, her son said he’d had enough.
“I told her I just couldn't be here another day,” he said.
When he came home, he revealed the most horrific allegations, including that an older student he paid $100 for protection raped him.
“I guess he thought he needed more as payment,” he said.
Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said the attack would've been before he was elected, but he revived the case. His investigator tracked the suspect to Texas, where he volunteered to take a polygraph and passed. The alleged victim was tested as well.
“Both of them are polygraphed as they're older and they both pass,” Matthews said.
The sheriff said his investigator did establish the allegation about the $100 protection payment was true.
School officials declined to comment on the allegations because the lawsuit is pending. For the school’s full statement on the policy against violence, click here.
Federal said he believes there are other victims.
“I hope that they'll come forward and know that they are not alone,” he said.