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Church Not Responsible for Rape of Teenage Girl by Camp Worker
Court says church and camp exercised sufficient care in selection and supervision of worker.

A North Carolina appeals court ruled that a church was not responsible on the basis of negligence for the rape of an adolescent camper by an adult worker at a church camp. The court concluded that the church and camp had exercised sufficient care in the selection and supervision of the worker to rebut the allegation of negligence. A 16-year-old female (the "victim") attended a summer camp owned and operated by a national religious denomination and a regional affiliate (the "church defendants"). On the last night of camp, an activity called "the Game" was conducted. The purpose of the Game was for campers to sneak around camp staff members through a wooded area, in the dark, and ring a bell located at the top of a hill. The Game was restricted to senior high campers. All participants were required to play with partners for safety purposes. The victim and a friend were partners, and at some point during the evening they met two male camp staff members. The victim's friend and one of the staff members left together, leaving the victim and the other staff member. The victim claimed that the staff member raped her.

After this incident, the victim returned to a camp dining hall. She did not report what happened to anyone at the camp or make any complaint regarding the assault until several months later. When confronted with the allegation, the assailant initially denied the sexual encounter but later claimed the encounter was consensual.

The victim and her father sued the church defendants, claiming they were responsible for the rape on the basis of negligence in their hiring, retention, and supervision of the staff member. In addition, the complaint alleged the defendants negligently failed to provide the victim with a safe environment when it conducted the Game. Plaintiffs also alleged that, as a result of defendants' negligence, the victim suffered severe emotional distress. A trial court dismissed the claims against the church defendants, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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