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Culture Shock: Foreign exchange students claim abuse by U.S. host parents

Rock Center

A Rock Center investigation has uncovered dozens of cases of the abuse and mistreatment of foreign exchange students by their American host parents.

Every year, 25,000 teenagers from around the world come to the United States as part of high school foreign exchange, a program overseen by the State Department sponsored.  The program is meant to promote diplomacy and cultural exchange, but Rock Center’s Kate Snow uncovered the worst case scenario: idealistic exchange students who are sexually abused by a host parent. 

“They told us the culture would be very different and that everybody would at some point in time have something called a culture shock,” said Christopher Herbon, a German man who said he was sexually abused while studying in the United States in 2004.

Herbon was 16 when he came to study. He was assigned to live with host father Doyle Meyer in Arkansas.  It was nothing like what he expected. Herbon claims that Meyer began molesting him soon after he moved in. 

“I was very afraid that he would send me home because my parents would be very disappointed,” he said.  “I can say he touched places that he shouldn’t have touched.”

Meyer was ultimately arrested and pleaded guilty to first degree sexual assault. He served four years of a six year sentence.  What happened to Herbon has happened to dozens of other students. Our Rock Center investigation found at least 14 groups where students alleged being sexually abused or harassed by a host parent.  Several of the organizations have also faced lawsuits for placing students in harm’s way.

Editor's Note: Click here to watch Kate Snow's full report, Culture Shock, which aired on Rock Center with Brian Williams.

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