Nobody Told Me My Son’s Camp Counselor Was Accused Of A Sex Offense
By Catherine Gigante-Brown
Editor’s note: Certain facts in this piece have been obscured to protect the children and families involved.
Four months after my son David, then 15, finished his two-week stay at a sleepaway camp in New York, we received a telephone call from the communications department, informing us that one of their directors had been arrested for downloading kiddie porn onto his work computer. The arrest had taken place on September 4 — but we were being notified on January 11.
I was so shocked by the call that I hung up without asking why there was a four-month delay in notifying us. The camp’s associate director of communications, Ms. H., had stressed that the accused, S., was an administrator who had very little contact with campers, who range in age from 8 to 17. “We take matters like this very seriously,” she’d assured me. Since S. had downloaded the images from the Internet, Ms. H. said there was no evidence that any child at camp was harmed.
Still, the more I thought about it, the more upset I became. When I told my husband about the camp’s call, Peter shared my rage. Our first concern was our son’s safety, so we asked our now-16-year-old if he recognized S.’s photograph — both with his natural brown hair and with bleached blonde spikes. Our son said he didn’t. When we told him about the accusations against S., our teen was mortified, and insisted that nothing abnormal had happened that summer.
But what if a camper had been abused, and was too embarrassed to come forward? This hypothetical child would have gone months without crucial counseling. Had the camp administrators recently seen Spotlight, the Academy Award-nominated film about a sexual abuse cover-up in the Boston Catholic church, and misunderstood it as a how-to manual? Did their legal team advise them to call parents as part of year-end housekeeping?
I began to question my rights as a parent. When a potential abuse situation like this arises, what is the camp’s legal obligation regarding parental notification? What are their moral duties, especially for an organization that purported to be Christian?
I wanted answers.