For many people, camping trips are times to create memories and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Unfortunately for two children who visited an East Haddam campground back in July 2016, the memories created on their trip weren’t exactly the type of memories they were hoping to make. According to a lawsuit recently filed by their parents, the two children, a boy, and a girl were sexually assaulted at the Wolf’s Den Cooperative Campground in East Haddam by another underage male camper.
The lawsuit itself was filed against the owners of the campground because they “knew the boy who allegedly committed the assaults had previous issues but also moved his family from another campground they owned to Wolf’s Den a few days before the assaults,” according to the suit.
In the suit, the children’s parents allege that the boy who committed the assault, referred to as Joseph Smith in the lawsuit, was originally staying with his family at the “family-owned Nelson’s Family Campground in East Hampton.” However, during that stay, a “female camper filed a complaint against Joseph Smith with that camp’s management team,” claiming that Joseph Smith “approached her and made indecent, obscene, lewd and sexually suggestive comments to her.” Instead of conducting an investigation or booting Joseph Smith and his family out of the campground, the campground owners simply “transferred them to the nearby Wolf’s Den campground, owned by the same owners through a company called Noslen Inc.”
Once at the Wolf’s Den campground, the suit alleges that, over several days, “Joseph Smith groomed both Girl Doe and Boy Doe until he exposed his private parts, exposed their private parts and eventually assaulted them.” The parents of the victims believe the alleged assault may have occurred in the recreation room, a game area at the campground with “ping-pong tables, and arcade and video games that children staying at the campground can use.”
However, children under the age of 10 aren’t allowed in the recreation room after 8 p.m. without a parent. The suit alleges the “recreation room had security cameras in place that were supposed to be monitored by the Wolf Den staff in the office” and mentioned that the recreation area was supposed to have “staff members on site to supervise campers and ensure the rules were being followed.” The parents of the victims claim this wasn’t so, and argue that the lack of camp supervision was a big reason why their children were assaulted.
The specific allegations in the lawsuit allege the following:
“Campground owners transferred Joseph Smith’s family to a different campground they owned rather than expel them for monetary gain, failed to have enough properly trained staff, and failed to monitor the recreation room or the security cameras installed for that purpose.”
As a result of the assault, both victims had to undergo medical treatment and are “suffering from trauma and psychological injuries,” according to the suit. For now, the family is seeking more than $15,000 in damages.
So far David Hill, the lawyer representing the campground, has pushed back against the allegations. He said:
“This is a frivolous lawsuit. This campground has had an unblemished record for 54 years because we prioritize safety and we prioritize kids. We were shocked we got sued and we were even more shocked at the family’s allegations because they have no basis in reality.”