Victim of serial child molester speaks out for first time

Survivor: 'When we learn to get over that hurdle, you're unstoppable in life'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – After two decades of silence, one victim of a notorious serial child molester is breaking his silence saying he wants the public – and his attacker – to know the crime didn’t define him.

In an extended interview, the survivor – who WPRI 12 is not identifying – said he decided to come forward after learning from a Target 12 investigation that Dana Waters was able to shave down his prison time and is near release.

“What happened to me as a child, what Dana Waters did to me, what Dana Waters has done to other children, I didn’t let it define who I am as a person,” he said. “He made many, many people controlled for a short time, but he can’t do that while he was away and while we’re developing into the people that we are today.”

In 1998 Waters pleaded guilty multiple counts of child molestation after cutting a deal with prosecutors. He was given 27 years behind bars but has been able to shave that down seven years – and counting – thanks to the state’s “good time” statute.

Based on current prison calculations, Waters will be a free man in less than a year.

Investigators say there were at least 11 victims, many of them were at Camp Davis, an overnight camp in Charlestown.

“He took advantage of the trust that kids’ parents put in the counselors,” the victim said. “His reputation was he was the cool counselor. He did things that made kids want to be in his bunk and he earned your trust.”

RI Dept. of Corrections inmate photo of Dana Waters
RI Dept. of Corrections inmate photo of Dana Waters

He said he has been able to move beyond the crimes Waters committed on him, but his mother has always struggled with what happened.

“I didn’t come forward to my mom because I was embarrassed – and she’s the person that I had more trust than anybody in – but I just felt like I was in the wrong, I allowed this to happen,” he said. “I didn’t want to let my mom down because I knew that she would feel guilty for sending me there.”

In the years since Waters was sent off to prison, he said he has used what happened to him as motivation, but it was a long journey.

“You don’t know how to have trust after, you struggle with it,” he said. “Whether it be with a teacher, a coach, your family members, friends, relationships; it definitely affects a lot of things in life.”

He said the crimes Waters committed impacted all of Rhode Island, giving a sense of insecurity to the entire community.

“You shouldn’t feel that around every corner is a predator,” he said “You shouldn’t feel that somebody out there is going to betray the trust of a 10-year-old child.”

The Target 12 investigation also found a profile in Dana Waters’ name was posted on a website for inmates seeking relationships.

A spokesperson at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections said inmates don’t have access to the internet but nothing prevents them from having someone on the outside posting it on the prisoner’s behalf.

The survivor said he was “appalled” by the profile, though not because such websites exist, but rather with how Waters crime was listed as a “sex offense” in the online profile.

“He’s not listed as a child sex offender on there, he’s just in there for a ‘sex offense,'” he said. “And it’s not ‘a’ sex offense, it is numerous sex offenses.”

Target 12 contacted the manager of the website who said they glean the information from a form “submitted and signed by the inmate.”

“The [website] staff does not manufacture this information,” the manager said in an email. “If the victims and/or victims’ families have issues with the posted information, they should contact the superintendent of the prison where the inmate is housed or the inmate’s counselor, and request that the inmate modify the information posted to the profile or remove it completely.”

A review of prison records also found Waters was disciplined 27 times since he was incarcerated, resulting in the loss of 260 days of earned good time. The survivor said he thinks that is a red flag.

‘”He’s gotten in trouble in there and it shows that he doesn’t have self-control,” he said. “If you can’t obey the rules in an institution like the prison … what are you going to do when there’s not that watch on you?”

When Waters is released he will be on probation for 30-year and have to register as a sex offender.

“We label people ‘sex offender’ and you know where they live but they don’t wear a tag on them,” the survivor said. “It’s tough to feel comfortable that they’re in the community.”

Through a prison spokesperson, Waters has denied a request to be interviewed by Target 12.

The survivor said he knows more than most about how difficult it is to tell someone when they have been sexually assaulted, but wants other victims to know it’s important to come forward.

“I promise you the first time you say it, it’s not going to be easy. The second time you say it’s not going to be easy. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, it’s not going to be any easier,” he said. “But I’m telling you the more you get it out, at the end of the day, you’ve learned that it’s not controlling you.”

He also had a message for Dana Waters, before he gets out.

“The little kids that you preyed upon are adults and they’ve overcome a lot of hurdles,” he said. “Dana Waters was probably the biggest but smallest hurdle … because a small person does such big crimes and puts such a big hurdle in front of young kids.”

“When we learn to get over that hurdle,” he added. “You’re unstoppable in life.”

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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