Court approves $1 million settlement in camp rape case
11/20/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
Tenn. (UMNS) - A Tennessee court has approved a $1 million settlement
in the case of a 12-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at a United
Methodist church camp in 2001.
The settlement, signed Nov. 19 in
the 2nd Circuit Court for Davidson County, resolves a lawsuit for
negligence brought by the girl's family against the denomination's
Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference. The conference operates Camp
Cedar Crest in middle Tennessee, where the assault occurred.
were grieved by the whole situation and regretted very deeply all that
took place," said Bishop William Morris, in an interview earlier in the
month. Morris leads the annual conference.
The conference had
approved the settlement in a July 27 special session in Nashville. The
money will come from dormant conference accounts, active funds and
During the special session, the conference adopted a
resolution stating "that the members of the Tennessee Annual Conference
and its various churches continue to pray for healing and wholeness for
the victim of the assault and her family and â€¦ we invoke the grace and
mercy of God upon all who have been affected by this experience."
conference screens every counselor at Camp Cedar Crest yearly, and its
annual training includes issues related to sexual behavior and
misconduct. Carl Steven Bentrup, 21, of Nashville, passed through the
screening each time, but he had a juvenile court record that was under
seal and unavailable to the conference. He worked at the camp for nearly
three summers before allegedly raping the girl July 19, 2001.
girl had left her cabin to use the restroom in the middle of the night
when Bentrup allegedly took her inside a bathhouse and assaulted her. He
later called police and told the dispatcher he had raped the girl,
according to the Hickman County Sheriff's Department.
arrested and charged with child rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated
sexual battery and sexual battery by an authority figure. On Oct. 25, a
few days before a scheduled court hearing, he was found hanged in his
cell. The Hickman County sheriff said the death was a suicide.
after the assault, the conference provided the campers, their families
and camp counselors opportunities for counseling. The service was
extended to campers who had attended Cedar Crest during the previous two
years - spanning the time that Bentrup worked there - as well as anyone
else in the conference who wanted it.
The conference also held a
series of open forums, allowing people to ask questions and get help
working through their feelings about what happened.
conference now seeks more extensive background information on camp
counselors during its screening process, Morris said. After checking
with other organizations, the Tennessee Conference also developed a new
manual for protecting the campers.
A task force reviewed the
conference's elementary- and youth-camp policies, determining that the
existing procedures "were comprehensive and well done," according to the
group's report. The task force made 20 recommendations for improving
As a result, the conference installed chemically
treated "port-a-lets" in the cabins, so the young people no longer go
outside their unit in the middle of the night, as the assault victim had
done. It revised the job descriptions and applications for camp staff
as well as requiring an additional reference from the applicant's parent
or legal guardian. Counselors were equipped with walkie-talkies in case
of emergency, and pastors-in-residence were added to provide additional
Camp Cedar Crest, near Centerville, Tenn., provides
camping experiences for students from in and out of state. Enrollment
in the camp's summer sessions for elementary school-age children has
decreased from 560 in 2001 to 230 this past summer.
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