Former Student Sues North Carolina Wilderness Camp Over Sexual Assault Allegations and Neglect

LAKE TOXAWAY, North Carolina – A former student of a wilderness camp in North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the program, alleging that staff members ignored her claims of sexual assault and failed to provide basic necessities during her time there in 2016. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, accuses Trails Carolina of creating an environment where troubled children are sexually assaulted and of neglecting to provide adequate care and shelter for the children in their custody. This comes just days after the death of a 12-year-old boy at the camp, the cause of which is still under investigation.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman referred to as Gertie, who attended Trails Carolina at the age of 12. According to the lawsuit, a week after Gertie arrived at the camp, she was sexually assaulted by another student in her group. Despite reporting the incident to staff members, the alleged abuser was not removed from the group and continued to target Gertie. The suit also claims that Gertie’s therapist at Trails Carolina failed to disclose the sexual assault to the authorities and instead blamed Gertie for the incident.

Gertie’s lawsuit further details concerning incidents that occurred during her time at the camp. It alleges that the group was forced to drink water from a nearby stream through dirty bandannas after the water filters broke, leading to some students developing illnesses. Additionally, Gertie experienced medical issues that were not adequately addressed by the camp, including symptoms of a urinary tract infection and significant weight loss due to insufficient food.

Trails Carolina, owned by Wilderness Training & Consulting, has faced criticism in the past. In 2014, a 17-year-old boy died after walking away from the camp, and in 2021, an investigation revealed that Trails Carolina had waited five hours before seeking assistance to find a missing student. Despite this history, the camp continued to operate.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and a jury trial, claiming that Gertie has suffered emotional pain and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her experience at Trails Carolina.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has ordered Trails Carolina to cease new admissions until an investigation into the recent death of the 12-year-old boy is completed. The department has also mandated that at least one staff member remain awake when children are asleep.

Gertie hopes that her lawsuit will spread awareness and bring justice to others who may have experienced trauma in similar environments. She wants survivors to know that they deserve to be believed and to receive justice for what they have endured.