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It’s time to put the shame back where it belongs: on the perpetrators and on the Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment. They failed to protect campers and we will do everything in our power to make them pay in order to get justice for any sexual assault victim.
We are currently representing multiple clients and know what has been going on for years at these camps. You can read about what has been going on over here on Facebook, but as sometimes posts get taken down by Facebook, we are posting the contents of this post below. Additionally, people are speaking out about the abuse and racism that existed at these camps, but since the A.R.E controls their Facebook pages, they are deleting posts from people that comment on their page.
The following is a response to many comments on the Friends of ARE Camp Facebook page. This post has gotten removed several times by the ARE, so instead of using their page, I am posting it on my wall publicly.
I heard second hand from friends in the community about the dialogue that was occurring on the Friends of ARE Camp facebook page. I knew, as a leader in the community and as someone who has made many mistakes, that I had to be a part of it.
As I read through all of the comments, I was moved specifically by KK, Kindra, Alex, and Aspen, all highly valued staff members from the past that I have had the honor to work with. Many of them I was a camper with. They are community members who have and are still helping our community through their own volition, courage, and fortitude.
I was grateful that all four of them stood up to the dysfunction once again, even if they were silenced and not heard in the past. I honor them for their courage, and thank them for inspiring me to share the reality of my experience and the objective events that have been so mishandled.
As they called out the camp management and the community as a whole for the horrible events of the past, I knew that I could not stand by and be silent. Somehow, I knew that the general nature and broad claims their comments contained were insufficient to illuminate the truth. They were approaching a breach of an unspoken agreement that we have at camp and in society at-large: violence should not be spoken of.
We have to break away from this culture of silence, infused with guilt and shame. We have to evolve quickly to prevent future harm from occurring.
I am sure as you (the community member reading this post) read through KK, Aspen, Kindra, and Alex’s comments, you found yourself speculating about what these events were and how they could have happened.
I write this post to our community as a means to illuminate how these acts have occurred, how they have been dealt with, and why they have been so mismanaged. I hope to communicate anonymous information so that the community is informed of how bad it was, and how poorly trained the management is in handling these events correctly.
As a community member all of my life, and as a staff member for 8 years, I have been a witness to many of the events that they alluded to. And, after they decided to not return on staff due to the dysfunction of leadership, I was given the position of Program Director. With no training and lacking the proper maturity to handle so much responsibility, I tried to mitigate the fear inside of myself that I would allow sexual assault, racism, or harassment to occur on my watch.
Strictly to protect myself and friends, I want the management at the ARE to know that if my post gets taken down, my friends will repost it. And if their posts are taken down, I will email the entire community my post. And if that is somehow mitigated, I will contact a journalist and have my story published. If the ARE threatens to file suit against me or my friends, I will respond in kind. Also note that I never signed a confidentiality form, nor did my colleagues.
I write this post:
For my campers who I have failed to protect.
For my friends who I have failed to protect.
For my colleagues who have left to boycott the dysfunction.
For the parents who have bitten their tongues and stayed silent as they risked the well being of their children.
For the parents whose children have been harmed unnecessarily on our watch.
For the community members, children, teenagers, and adults who have been harmed unnecessarily.
For my future children who I wish to bring to this place, with the ability to unequivocally trust the institution to keep them safe and let them discover the magic of who they are.
For the survivors.
For my home.
As a community, we are fundamentally and institutionally addicted to bypassing the hard decisions and in so doing, we fail to uphold the vital boundaries to keep community members safe. This system has led to numerous incidents of sexual violence, racism, sexism, transphobia, etc. We have been able YET unwilling, at times, to ostracize those in our community who are sexually assaulting, harassing, bigoting, and/or dysfunctioning other members, be they campers or staff members. This is done in the name of inclusivity. But to be inclusive of abusive behavior is illogical and unsafe.
Moreover, the ARE and management of the Camp have been unwilling to share institutional knowledge about previous incidents, and have at times, forgotten that past incidents have even happened with staff members or campers. They do not keep proper records of past incidents. There have been several staff members who have sexually harassed other community members numerous times, and the next summer, were rehired, even with the persistent resistance of other staff members. The level of secrecy is rationalized as a means to protect confidentiality, but its impact serves the purpose of hiding the fact that the events even occurred.
To quench any speculation and to provide evidence to my subjective and broad claims, the following is an anonymous listing of the events that I have either been witness to or known first hand about that were mismanaged. All events have happened between 2010 – 2018. As a former Program Director and Counselor, I am breaking verbal confidentiality agreements by sharing these stories and know that I may never be rehired at ARE Camp because of it. I also know that I may be hurting those who survived these events by sharing them, even anonymously. Please forgive me. I only share this to prove to the community how bad it’s been. I love this place, and believe completely in the transformative and life changing nature of our programs. However, the safety of others, the secrecy, and the dysfunctional way the camp has been handling these situations must end.
TW: For racist words and actions, sexual assault, sexual harassment, child abuse and neglect, homophobia, transphobia, and mismanagement of sexual assault and harassment (including by me-Tyler). If you are someone who has had any of these happen to you, please read with care or don’t read at all. If you want to skip this part and read the rest of my post, I have put a line at the end of the examples/stories so you can quickly scroll past and pick up again after.
A staff member had sexual relations with a camper. The staff member was allowed to return to camp as a camper in 2014. When the former staff member returned as a camper, knowledge of the incident was not passed on to camp directors onsite. Campers notified management staff onsite, but the former staff member (now a camper) was allowed to stay for the remainder of the session.
A staff member had sexual relations with a camper. A year later, the Camp Directors found out about the incident through mandatory reporting. That staff member was rehired in 2014.
A camper sexually assaulted another camper. The event was preventable. Counselors were told to allow male and female campers to sleep in the same building by the directors, when that is not the policy at ARE Camp. The directors were liable for neglect but were rehired for future summers. That same camper was allowed to return to camp, and two years later, sexually assaulted another camper. Several years later, that camper was hired by the camp manager. A handful of community members were outraged at the hiring of the previous camper and forced the manager to fire the staff member.
A staff member sexually assaulted another staff member. The camp management did not find out about the incident at the time, as there was no official feedback process in place. The survivor never returned to camp after the incident. Several years later, the survivor shared their story with the manager. It was uncertain as to whether an official record was filed.
A camper communicated to a counselor that they were being beaten at home. The counselor shared this with the director so it could be mandatorily reported. The director and manager did not report it to social services, even after several communications occurred between the counselor and the director onsite.
Counselors approached the program director during orientation/training to incorporate alternative, queer based fairy tales to show campers that it’s beautiful and okay to be queer. The program director did not allow counselors to incorporate this into story time or bedtime routines. Counselors were accused of forcing an agenda.
A staff member made a racist joke in a cabin. The directors told the staff to stay quiet about the situation, for the sake of the campers. The staff member was fired. The effects on our community members of color were mishandled by highly uneducated directors. A camper did not return because of it.
There were numerous sexual harassment complaints about a staff member that were reported to management. Camp management did not handle it at all. The staff member worked the entire summer and was not fired when they should have been. That staff member was rehired for the following summer. Many staff members did not return after this summer out of disgust and protest.
Several staff members approached the manager to create diversity training for staff orientation for the following summer, in order to address sexual harassment and racism, among others. An outside trainer was ready and able to provide the training. The training did not occur. Nothing was done.
Two counselors were leading a day hike with 8 campers during a children’s camp. One of the counselors began to espouse highly transphobic beliefs and language. The other counselor had to quickly end the conversation. The counselor reported the incident to the director, knowing fully that that language was cause for dismissal. The director did not do anything to address the situation.
The N word was yelled multiple times at dinner by a camper. The camper was allowed to stay at camp for the rest of the session and the effects on our community members of color were mishandled by highly uneducated directors.
The New Years Teen Retreat was not canceled for insurance reasons. This is a lie. It was canceled because a camper sexually assaulted another camper. Staff were not trained in best practice policies by the camp manager and were not adequately supervising campers at night. The truth was kept a secret and the CEO of the ARE and the Director of Marketing, the Camp Manager’s direct supervisor, as well as the HR Director at the ARE did not investigate further. There was a witness to the situation, but the witness was not contacted. The program was canceled indefinitely. No policies were changed.
A staff member who had been accused of sexual harassment on numerous occasions was rehired. Before hiring, several directors voiced concerns about the staff member, but the manager still hired the staff member. That staff member was fired midsummer by the directors for sexual harassment.
Me and another former staff member approached the manager and director of marketing (the manager’s direct supervisor at the ARE), to officially apologize to female staff members who were sexually harassed by a staff member in the summer of 2014. They agreed to apologize, but never did. Most of those female staff members have not returned to camp since.
The camp manager asked me what I thought about a specific candidate’s application. I advised that this applicant was not ready to be on staff, but could be a great addition in a couple of years. The manager hired him anyway. Later that summer, this person sexually harassed another staff member. The manager was onsite at the time. Even though sexual harassment is an immediate dismissal, the manager, director, and kitchen director were on the fence. The staff member was a friend of mine and I was the one, as the program director, to push for the staff member’s removal. The manager did not fire the staff member herself, but asked myself and the director to fire the staff member. This was unusual and irrational, since he was a friend of mine. I was confused as to why I was not asked to separate myself from the situation, because of my close relationship with him. Additionally, the staff member was not directly supervised by me, as he was not a counselor. I severely mishandled aspects of the situation partially because of my obvious bias to the situation. However, I made mistakes that hurt specific people through my lack of awareness, ignorance, and egotism. Some people have not come back to camp because of the situation and how I specifically handled it.
A camper was being physically abused and neglected at home and shared this with their counselor. The counselor immediately told me and the head counselor the situation. The head counselor and I communicated this to the director. The director did not want to report it to social services. The head counselor and I told him that we were reporting regardless of what he thought. He resisted the decision but eventually agreed. The situation would not have been reported if we had not been who we are.
I am sure this list is incomplete, as the dysfunctional secrecy in our community runs deep and goes back for many decades. It is indicative of a oppressive, sexist, racist, patriarchal, and bigoted society. Without open communication about the reality of situations, we cannot adequately and safely prevent and address violence and oppression from happening, whether it be ideological, institutional, interpersonal, or intrapersonal.
The issues above are not only due to the systemic issues of racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, bigotry, and the like. They are a reflection of an organization that doesn’t know how to run a safe summer camp. The management staff and supervisors do not have formal training in administration of institutions that are in charge of the safety and well being of children and teenagers. Therefore, none of them can adequately train anybody else who might be in a director role, be they a director, kitchen director, or program director. Institutional knowledge of how to run a safe summer camp is not passed on from director to director. The professional training I’ve received I have sought out individually. The ARE has not supported me financially to get professional training, nor have any of my director-level colleagues been offered this. In other words, we’re all flying an airplane in thick fog without the proper training to fly the plane, including the manager. When I was hired as a program director, I was not trained or educated on how to run a safe program. I did not receive any formal management or additional policy training whatsoever. They just gave me the keys and said good luck. And I’ve heard the same story from all of my leadership colleagues at ARE Camp.
Additionally, we have overworked our directors (directors, kitchen directors, and program directors) for decades now. We burn through directors quickly. When I was a program director, I was working 85+ hours a week. We cannot expect our director-level staff to be present enough and rested enough to make the right calls when they’re constantly battling burnout. Moreover, it is legally questionable and unethical to expect that output of work from someone.
I say these things not to dilute the horrific pattern of racism and sexual violence at camp. I say these things to illustrate how unprepared and untrained the ARE is at running a safe summer camp. The ARE could be working towards solving these problems by addressing any sort of policy change, be it institutionalizing mandatory weekly feedback processes for staff, increasing staff to camper ratios, instituting consent education, or ensuring and funding substantial diversity training (to name a few).
We cannot just rely on individual transformation and the inner, flawed ethics of the individual, no matter how resilient, committed, and insightful. We have to rebuild a system that doesn’t allow us to stray from our chosen core values. We have to build a love based system, meaning that all people of all identities feel welcome and loved at ARE Camp. Where all people treat themselves, each other, and the world with loving respect, regardless of identity. We can only do this by looking at our own shadows and flaws. By listening deeply to those who are different from us. By educating ourselves and noticing the micro and macro-aggressions that we commit and perpetuate. From our mostly white, able bodied, privileged selves, we must realize that we are in fact perpetuating the oppression and exclusivity that we claim to be without. We have to apologize for our horrendous mistakes, ask for forgiveness from those we have oppressed, and try to restore the trust that we betrayed. The reality is that the place is not welcome to many people of various identities, and in the cases above, has been quite harmful to women, people of color, minors, and queer folks.
As you read through this list, you probably feel what I feel…depression, anger, rage, sadness. I’ve been trying to contain my pain about this by rationalizing the importance of confidentiality. By crying when I think about my part in perpetuating the oppressive nature of secrecy at camp. But this was wrong for me to do, staying silent. I am deeply, deeply sorry to all those I have harmed through my complacency and inaction.
I know that I am a part of the problem. There are complaints and serious issues that people have with me. My leadership style has been overly protective, controlling, and at times policing, partially because I was so afraid that someone would get hurt. I am deeply sorry that my strong tendency to be overly cautious has made others uncomfortable. Additionally, I was authoritative and complicit myself. I failed specific people in upholding a safe, harassment free environment. I made decisions without incorporating feedback and by-in from staff members. Some campers and staff members have not returned because of my tenure as program director, and I am deeply sorry for the way I led the community. I am sorry for my own failings at being a love based, compassionate, and trustworthy leader.
I am learning and incorporating feedback from colleagues as best as I can. I want to change and be a part of an institution that cares about the lives of those we have not cared for. I do not feel attached to being a leader, director, and program director for this camp. If the community does not see me fit to lead, then I will respectfully step down from pursuing leadership positions at camp.
If anyone wants to send direct feedback to me or talk to a third party to transfer the feedback tangentially, please do. My email is [email protected], or you can call me directly at camp (276) 686-4031. I will do my best to accept any criticism and harm that I have committed and do my best to restore what was lost. Or, if you want to be heard without a response, I am wholeheartedly committed to that as well.
I believe that we need a change in management and structure. I don’t know what that looks like, but I know the current leadership is insufficient in leading us to a truly inclusive and safe place.
And that includes me.
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