- May 24, 2021
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Sexual Assault & Trafficking
A suspect is in custody and has been charged with “several felonies,” following multiple accusations of sexual assault at the West End Family Life and Community Center Summer Camp in Atlanta. The suspect is male and in his 50s, but his name has not yet been released.
Attendees of the camp range in age from 5-11, and the alleged assaults took place across the summers of 2016, 2017, and 2018. All of the children who have come forward so far are under the age of 12, though police believe there are likely more victims, and possibly more perpetrators as well. They are encouraging anyone with further knowledge to come forward.
The investigation into the camp is ongoing and began in February, after the grandmother of one of the campers relayed her descriptions of being repeatedly raped during the summer of 2018 to police. The girl would have been eight years old at the time.
The suspect and several of the people who run the camp are members of the Atlanta West End Seventh Day Adventist Church, which also owns the community center where camp is held. It is not yet known whether the church itself had any knowledge of or involvement in the alleged abuse.
Coming Forward Is the First Step Toward Finding Justice and Protecting Other Innocent People
It’s completely normal for any survivor of sexual assault to feel uncomfortable talking about their experience, or to need processing time. Children in particular often struggle to get past whatever threats an abuser may have made to keep them quiet. They may also lack the language or context necessary to communicate the seriousness of what was done to them. A reporting delay does not make an assault any less real or worthy of being addressed. However, from a legal perspective, it’s always to a survivor’s advantage to act as soon as they feel able.
Well-meaning guardians of underage survivors are sometimes hesitant to share information or pursue all the legal options available to them, thinking that involving their child in legal proceedings will prolong their trauma or compromise their privacy. It’s true that sexual assault cases are emotionally difficult, but in the long run, trying to avoid “making a big deal” out of a child’s assault can make their recovery harder instead of easier. This strategy sends the child the message that what happened was okay, unimportant, or something they should be ashamed of.
Keeping quiet also makes it easier for sexual predators to continue their patterns and damage the lives of more people. Pursuing justice disrupts that pattern, protects potential victims, and can bring closure to existing ones.
Civil Suits Can Help Heal Survivors in Ways Criminal Law Doesn’t
Sexual assault is a crime and should be met with criminal consequences. Many people don’t realize, however, that it’s also grounds for a civil law suit. While criminal law focuses on punishing and deterring offenders, civil law focuses more on healing victims. Both areas of law can be applied to the same issue at the same time.
Victims can sue for compensation for their pain, and to cover the many expenses, both obvious and subtle, that come with being a survivor of sexual assault. In some cases, survivors can even file suit anonymously to protect their privacy.
Direct perpetrators are fair game to sue, but so are organizations that either enable sexual assault or fail in their duty to protect people from it. In this case, the West End Family Life and Community Center Summer Camp was responsible for the safety of the children in its care, and could be liable for failing to prevent sexual abuse.
If you are a survivor of the alleged West End Family Life and Community Center Summer Camp sexual assaults, or you believe that your child is, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn more about your options.