Two UCLA students allege sexual assault, hazing at summer camp

When UCLA students Samea Derrick and Lydia Dixon were hired as camp counselors at Bruin Woods, a summer vacation spot for alumni in Lake Arrowhead, they were thrilled to land the coveted job with its networking opportunities.

But after less than a week at the camp, the two would head down the mountain and return home, traumatized by the intense harassment from other counselors, they said.

During those five days in June, Derrick, 19, and Dixon, 20, said they were sexually assaulted and bullied, including physical and verbal abuse, sensory deprivation, forced nudity, and forced drinking games, by returning college advisors.

Speaking to The Times, Derrick and Dixon this week filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against University of California regents and other camp counselors, including two men, accused of sexually assaulting them.

The lawsuit alleges that the bullying activities, which advisors describe as “traditions,” have been going on for decades at the camp, which was established in 1985 for UCLA alumni and their families. It refers to a 1999 news article in the student newspaper Daily Bruin, which mentioned activities such as swimming naked in the lake and partying as requirements for becoming a consultant.

“We are doing this to expose the dangerous behavior at Bruin Woods and to hold the Regents responsible for allowing the behavior to go unchecked for so long,” said Scott Carr, an attorney who filed Tuesday’s lawsuit against the students’ names .

The lawsuit alleges negligence, civil rights violations, victimization, gender-based violence, two counts of assault and assault, and willful infliction of emotional distress. It is asking for a jury trial, $50,000 in damages and compensation for legal and medical expenses.

Before arriving at camp, Derrick and Dixon said they heard rumors of heavy drinking, partying and sex. Arriving counselors were given a packing list that included a fake ID for under-21 students, condoms and birth control, the lawsuit said.

While driving into the San Bernardino Mountains, Derrick, Dixon and other advisers were forced to drink and told not to throw up as cars weaved the winding roads, they said.

Staff and returning consultants welcomed the newcomers with open arms, describing the group as “family” and “a team that will accompany you for life”. But “every single night it just got more and more intense, like they were pushing more and more boundaries,” Derrick said.

Communication with the outside world was discouraged; Counselors were fined for calling friends and family, and phones were banned during most “traditions,” the students said.

According to the lawsuit, drinking was encouraged nightly at parties thrown by returning counselors at camp facilities.

During a party earlier in the week, Dixon lost consciousness after drinking heavily and was sexually assaulted in his sleep by a male return counselor, she said.

The next day, she said, her supervisors fired the counselor after she reported the incident to them, and she decided to move on, hoping things would improve.

On the third night, around 11 p.m., Dixon said she was too tired and would not be attending the evening party. However, a returning counselor assured her that it was one of her “favorite traditions” and convinced her to participate. Newcomers were told to bring pillowcases and a shoelace.

The new counselors were forced to remove their shoes and place the pillowcases over their heads and were marched into the forest where they were told to hold their arms up until they lost circulation, the lawsuit says. Then they were taken to a room where other counselors insulted them.

Dixon, who is a part of Greek campus life, said she had never been bullied before and did not expect such “degrading” treatment while working a position at UCLA.

“And so I was kind of confused, but I was like, you know, maybe that’s the worst part,” she said.

But the next night, under “peer pressure”, newcomers were forced to strip and jump down a slide that led to the lake.

“I was scared,” Derrick said. “Well, I hardly knew these people.”

On Wednesday night this week, the newcomers were invited to a party at a warehouse at the camp, where returning counselors welcomed them completely naked and encouraged the newcomers to strip as well, Dixon said.

“When I walked into that room, I just felt like everyone was just like the kid who attacked me,” Dixon said. “I was so offended.”

Dixon and Derrick were among the newcomers who tried to leave the party early, they said, but found the doors were locked from the outside.

When returning advisers tried to persuade her to stay, Dixon said she felt uncomfortable, citing her attack. The counselors assured her, “If I just undressed, I would feel a lot better and that’s how they build trust.”

Both stayed clothed at the party. “I honestly still wanted them to like me,” Dixon said.

After the party, naked Counselors ran up and down the hallways of the two-story mixed-race house the Counselors shared, and hopped in the showers together. Dixon said she and other newcomers locked themselves in a room where some burst into tears and others had panic attacks.

Later that night, Derrick lost consciousness and was also sexually assaulted by a male counselor while she slept, according to the lawsuit.

“When I woke up Thursday morning, I was naked in my bed and I was just panicking … because I didn’t know what happened,” Derrick said.

She confronted an aide she recalled spending time with during the party, and he admitted to the assault, she said. When she reported it to her superiors, she said she was peppered with intense questions.

Derrick immediately called her father, who picked her up Friday and returned to her home in Santa Clarita.

Other new hires had also expressed a desire to leave earlier but decided to stay after speaking to the returning consultants. Dixon feared the same thing would happen to her and decided to keep to herself until her parents arrived from their home in the Northern California town of Paradise for the camp counselors’ traditional opening week musical theater show.

“I remember thinking even if they change my mind, they won’t be able to change my mother’s mind,” Dixon said.

At the end of the week, Dixon also left the mountain with her family after guiding her parents through the events of the past few days.

Shortly thereafter, Dixon turned to Derrick. They both reported their experiences to the university’s Title IX office and decided to seek a lawyer.

A spokesman for UCLA said the university has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual violence and bullying.

“When we learned of the alleged incidents earlier this year, they were referred to our Title IX office and will be treated in accordance with the university’s policies and procedures,” the university said in a statement, declining to comment further. to protect the privacy of those involved. “Our top priority is the well-being of our students, staff and families, and we have strict policies in place to investigate all allegations of misconduct.”

UCLA had been a dream school for Dixon, a political scientist growing up in Northern California who fell in love with the idea of ​​living in Los Angeles and had heard enthusiastic stories from her sister-in-law, who attended the university. Derrick, who is majoring in environmental sciences, was drawn to UCLA for its research opportunities and variety of clubs.

But since camp, Derrick and Dixon said their mental health has taken a hit, making their return to campus difficult.

Derrick took a gap quarter this fall after having several panic attacks from meeting other camp counselors on campus. She has also been prescribed medication for her mental health.

“I didn’t feel physically safe on campus anymore,” Derrick said.

Dixon said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the summer and was prescribed medication. The next few months were filled with anxiety and depression, and she found it difficult to leave her home.

Though she returned to campus for classes this fall, Dixon said she still cringes when she sees other camp counselors, with whom she also shares some classes.

“It was just really difficult to deal with, so I want to make sure nobody else has to do it,” Derrick said.

It’s unclear how many supervisors at the camp and at UCLA were aware of the harassment, Carr said. He expects this to be uncovered during the investigation into the case.

Dixon said she spoke to other female counselors who shared experiences of assault, with some being woken up by male counselors touching their genitals. During training, she said advisers said four separate Title IX cases had been filed after camp last summer. She was told the “traditions” had intensified in previous years with even less approval and had since been toned down.

“I’m sure there have been so many people in the past who have been victims of this and for whatever reason have not been able to speak out,” Dixon said.

Carr, who has represented sexual assault survivors in school districts and churches as well as survivor harassment at universities, said such behavior thrives in secret.

“They bring you in and they talk about becoming your best friends and they get you to trust them, and then when you trust them, they get you to protect their secrets,” Carr said. “And that’s exactly what happened here.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-20/two-ucla-students-allege-sexual-assault-hazing-bruin-woods-summer-camp Two UCLA students allege sexual assault, hazing at summer camp

Alley Einstein

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