Two University of California students, who were hired to work as counselors at a summer camp for UCLA alumni, are now suing Bruin Camp after being subjected to violent hazing and abuse.
Samea Derrick, 19, and Lydia Dixon, 20, were two of approximately 53 UCLA student counselors, including about 30 new counselors and 20 returning counselors, hired to work at Bruin Woods over the summer, but they left after a week of what they describe as “intolerable living conditions” and abuse disguised as decades-old traditions.
“We know there are more victims, but many fear speaking up or turning against other staff due to a pervasive culture of secrecy,” said Scott Carr, plaintiffs’ attorney at the Los Angeles law firm Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP. News Digital in a statement. “We brought this lawsuit to expose the dangerous and harmful behavior at Bruin Woods and to hold the UC Regents accountable for allowing it to fester for decades.”
UCLA said in a statement that “sexual violence, sexual harassment and hazing of any kind are reprehensible and intolerable.”
“When we learned of the alleged incidents earlier this year, they were referred to our Title IX office and are being handled in accordance with university policies and procedures,” the school said. “We are unable to comment further on the specifics of these matters as we want to protect the privacy of those involved. Our top priority is the well-being of our students, staff and families, and we have put have strong policies in place to investigate all allegations of misconduct.”
Bruin Woods was founded in 1985 as a retreat for UCLA alumni and their families and hires approximately 50 current UCLA students each year to work as boat operators, lifeguards, age group counselors, instructors outdoor activities, arts and crafts instructors, etc.
The jobs are “highly coveted” because they present an “opportunity to develop relationships with alumni that can lead to future success,” the lawsuit says.
And while traditions like the hot tub have been around for a long time, Derrick and Dixon say they’ve been subjected to far worse, including sleep deprivation, food deprivation, the inability to lock residence doors, forced isolation and restricted cell phone use, insufficient breaks, dehydration, harassment and intimidation.
“Furthermore, as part of their employment, Complainants and other new recruits were coerced into participating in various BRUIN WOODS ‘traditions’ that involved physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse amounting to hazing,” says the trial.
Traditions included “coercive drinking”, “physical abuse and sensory deprivation”, “forced nudity”, “threats”, and “sexual abuse”.
In one case, while driving to camp, new counselors were forced to drink alcohol before being driven down winding roads and told not to vomit.
Another night, Dixon passed out after drinking too much alcohol, and a counselor sexually assaulted her while she slept, the two women told the Los Angeles Times. The plaintiffs allege that “forced nudity was a recurring experience during the first week of formal employment”.
A packing list for new counselors includes fake IDs for those under 21, condoms and contraceptives, according to the lawsuit.
In another example of abuse, complainants were forced into a warehouse on the campground without shoes and with pillowcases over their heads. They then had to raise their arms until they lost circulation, the lawsuit says.
Finally, the complainants say they were not allowed to contact friends or family. They left after one week of the 11-week program, according to the complaint.
Dixon and Derrick are seeking $50,000 in damages for physical and emotional harm they say they suffered as a result of camp’s alleged negligence, hazing, gender-based violence, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of Bane’s Law and Ralph’s Law.