Sleepaway camps are advertised as places where children can go to learn independence, teamwork and new skills, all while having fun and making new friends. While this is true of many sleepaway and summer camps in Kansas, they are not always safe for children. Sadly, summer camp abuse is a risk that parents may run when they leave their children in the care of camps and their counselors.
Three Main Types of Child Abuse
Sleepaway camps have a responsibility to prevent child abuse by camp counselors, other campers and volunteers. They should have security measures in place, safety protocols and in-depth training on abuse prevention. Unfortunately, child abuse occurs at sleepaway camps due to a lack of background checks on camp counselors, a lack of proper counselor training and poor child supervision. Child abuse takes three main forms.
Emotional abuse – also referred to as mental or psychological abuse – is a pattern of behavior that harms a child’s emotional development. It can result in issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies, as well as issues as the child gets older, such as substance abuse and sexual promiscuity. Emotional abuse at a sleepaway camp can take the form of bullying, berating or verbally abusing a child, isolating the child away from other campers for an extended period, withholding food or water, or ignoring the child.
Physically abusing a child refers to knowingly and intentionally committing an act that physically injures a child. It can include hitting, slapping, striking, kicking, beating, pinching, burning, biting and many other examples of inflicting physical injury upon a child with cruel or malicious intent. Physical abuse can have major ramifications on a child’s mind and body, such as serious bodily injuries and emotional distress.
Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual contact with a child under the age of 18. Any kissing, fondling, groping or touching of the private parts (including a female’s breasts) of a minor constitutes child sexual abuse. This includes when the abuser is a fellow camper. Child-on-child sexual abuse is a crime, as children cannot give their consent to sexual activity. Child sexual abuse at camp does not have to include physical touching – it can also refer to crimes such as exhibitionism, exploitation, voyeurism and child pornography.
Abuse by Camp Counselors vs. Fellow Campers
The nature of a sleepaway camp, with children away from their parents, mixing with new people and overnight stays, exposes children to a risk of many different types of abuse and neglect. It is the camp’s responsibility to take action to prevent potential abuse risks, such as by not allowing a camp counselor to be alone with a child at any time. If the camp fails to fulfill its responsibilities, it can be held civilly responsible (liable) for incidents of child abuse that occur at the camp.
Whether the abuser was a camp counselor or a fellow camper, the sleepaway camp can be held liable. As is the case with all employers, a camp is vicariously liable for the misconduct of its counselors and staff members. In a case involving child-on-child abuse, the camp may also be held liable for failing to prevent the abuse, such as with proper child supervision, or failing to respond appropriately to reports of abuse. If the camp has a history of covering up complaints, for example, the institution may be held accountable for contributing to the problem.
Legal Actions for Child Abuse at a Sleepaway Camp in Kansas
If you have reason to believe that your child has experienced any type of abuse at a sleepaway camp or summer camp in Kansas, contact DRZ Law to request a free case review. Your family may be entitled to financial compensation through a civil lawsuit. Our sleepaway child abuse lawyers can help bring a lawsuit against a negligent sleepaway camp can hold the institution responsible and potentially prevent other children at the camp from being mistreated in the future. It can also bring your family justice and compensation for your losses, including pain and suffering.