Coming-of-age movies and raunchy comedies that glorify or lampoon sexual experiences at summer camps have become cliché. Each time an audience laughs at the awkward sexual exploits of a group of teens at camp we as a society are normalizing sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is not something to laugh at. It is a serious issue that we must all come to terms with because kids today aren’t sharing an innocent kiss behind the mess hall. They are engaging in explicit activities with other campers, and with camp staffers.
When camps look the other way instead of addressing this problem head-on, they must be held responsible. A failure to do so sends the message that sexual abuse is not a big deal, which is like rolling out a welcome mat for child predators.
Sexual Abuse in a Camp
Day camps and summer camps can teach children valuable skills, give them the opportunity to explore their interests, and facilitate exciting new experiences. Being away from parents, and outside of a traditional classroom, helps kids let their guard down and fully engage in whatever learning opportunities are offered.
The unfortunate reality is these same factors that make camps such a great experience for so many children, also make them a breeding ground for sexual abuse. Too many camps are not doing enough to ensure that they are not facilitating camper on camper and/or staff on camper abuse.
A Magnet for Predators
The staff and volunteers that work at camps sometimes take advantage of the fact that the children under their care are away from their families and eager for new experiences. Too many children have been abused by staff members, volunteers, and teen or college-aged counselors.
Abusers gravitate toward camps because they know if they get their foot in the door they will have unfettered access to adventurous children who have been told they are in a safe place. This puts abusers in a position to groom potential victims and get victims alone.
For a variety of reasons, camps often neglect to fully vet or properly supervise their staff and volunteers. It is critical that these negligent organizations be held accountable for the severe harm their poor management causes.
Failure To Report Camp Sexual Abuse
Oftentimes camp staff or a camper’s parents can tell something bad happened to a camper, but the child is too freaked out or scared to tell them exactly what occurred. This is a huge red flag. Responsible adults must push for the truth in these situations.
If sexual abuse is discovered, it should be immediately reported to the authorities. Too often, camp leaders are willing to turn a blind eye to questionable behavior that should serve as a warning sign, or even rumors of abuse. This makes them just as guilty as the actual abusers.
Some camps may also be tempted to address allegations of abuse in-house. This is a mistake. Covering up problems instead of properly reporting them makes these people and organizations just as guilty as the abusers they harbor.
You Are Not Alone
One of the most heart-breaking things we hear from victim-survivors is that they thought they were alone or that what happened to them was just part of the camp experience.
Until they saw a story on the news about others who were abused, or something in their mind clicked, they thought they were the only one who went through what they did. They lived for years trying to push memories of the abuse to the back of their mind. They spent years thinking they did something wrong instead of blaming the predator that hurt them, and the camp that let it happen.
We are here to say that nobody is alone. We are here to stand with you. We are here to spread the word that victims are not to blame. Abusers and the organizations that shelter them are the villains in this story.
New Statute of Limitations Law Opens a Window of Opportunity
No matter when the abuse occurred, even if it was decades ago, those responsible deserve to be held accountable.
Scientific research has revealed that victims of childhood sexual abuse often need years or decades to come to terms with what happened to them, and our laws are finally recognizing this. On October 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 into law. This new law gives past victims of sexual abuse more time to pursue justice, even if their claims were previously time-barred.
California victim-survivors now whose cases were previously time-barred are being given a three-year period in which they may file suit. From January 1, 2020 until December 31, 2022, anyone who was previously stopped from suing because their case was deemed too old has a second chance to seek justice. Victims may be eligible for compensation, but they will also get the satisfaction of knowing they are part of a movement that will hold enabling institutions accountable and ensure that kids today will not suffer a similar fate.
Experience You Can Trust
Attorney Paul Mones has over 30 years of experience representing victim-survivors of sexual abuse. He has helped many of them seek compensation and expose the hypocrisy at the heart of organizations that are supposed to be dedicated to enriching kids’ lives.
Attorney Paul Mones urges anyone who was sexually abused at camp to contact our office and discuss their options.