AP NEWS

Lawsuits target alleged sex abuse at Duke children’s camp

January 31, 2019 GMT

For nearly 40 years, Duke University’s Camp Kaleidoscope served as a place of hope and healing for chronically ill children.

But lawsuits filed by parents now blame Duke for alleged sexual abuse that happened among young campers in 2017.

Duke employees launched Camp Kaleidoscope in 1979 as a summer camp for ill children on Kerr Lake in Vance County.

According to several lawsuits, four boys ranging in age from 7 to 10 were left unsupervised in a cabin in 2017 until they were discovered performing oral sex on each other.

The lawsuits were filed by parents of two children who say they were abused and parents of another camper who witnessed what happened.

The boys had various illnesses, including brain cancer and sickle cell anemia. One of the boys was also diagnosed as HIV-positive.

One child who wasn’t sick, but whose father worked at the camp, is described in the suits as the instigator.

“A dominant personality of a child can get a less assertive child to do something they do not want to do,” said Lindsey Ohler, a psychologist with LePage Associates in Durham, who isn’t connected to the case. “It is really important, after an incident like this, that the children involved be taught about appropriate boundaries.”

One of the boys told his parents what happened, according to an email from the parents to camp organizers included in one of the lawsuits.

“It is really important that kids feel comfortable talking with their parents,” Ohler said, adding that parents need to create an atmosphere at home where children feel safe sharing such information.

″[Parents should be] making sure a child does not feel they will be lectured or critiqued for whatever they are going to bring to you,” she said.

Parents claim in the suits that camp counselors were negligent and that Duke attempted to cover up what happened. The lawsuits don’t allege that any adults were involved in the sex acts.

WRAL News reached out to Duke for comment on Tuesday.

“Duke is committed to protecting the privacy of minors and their families, and will thus decline to comment on this lawsuit,” Doug Stokke, a Duke spokesman, said in a statement.

Duke suddenly shut down Camp Kaleidoscope in 2017, telling parents it needed to re-evaluate policies.