Judge Dismisses Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Bronson Health Club, Victim’s Mom Speaks Out

Posted at 9:56 AM, May 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-12 10:12:51-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (May 11, 2014)– The mother of a 7-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually abused by her summer camp counselor at Bronson Athletic Club is speaking out after the judge decided not to send the case to trial.

Kristen Smith, the victim’s mother, said she wants Bronson to come forward in public and admit that it didn’t take the proper procedures to prevent the assault. Smith and her attorney also said they plan to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“From day one, they’ve wanted to sweep this under the rug and hope that it goes away, and we’re not going away,” Smith said.

On Aug. 20,  2012, Smith dropped her daughter off at the club. Smith said when she returned, “Other kids were there and told us where she was or where the counselor was and she came running out of the closet with him behind her,” Smith said.

Smith claims the counselor lured her daughter into the closet with a toy, closed the door, and sexually abused her daughter.

Last year, Smith filed a lawsuit against Bronson asking the court to order Bronson to take responsibility in the incident. The summer camp was unlicensed at the time.

Ven Johnson, Smith’s attorney, said there are several things Bronson overlooked that could’ve prevented the incident from happening. “The boy was left alone with these kids. He was 16. He wasn’t even an adult yet,” Johnson said. “The law requires two adults to be present at all times, but they were already operating an illegal daycare. They did not train anybody on the issue of sexual abuse. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA camps all across the United States … all trained on sex abuse, child abuse, and on the appropriate ratio supervision of adults to children.”

Following the incident, Bronson voluntarily shut down the summer camp after the state began investigating. The counselor was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and placed on probation.

Attorneys for Bronson and Medsport argued the abuse was unforeseeable and that they are not liable. They claim a background check was done on the teenager involved and that he didn’t have a criminal history.

Johnson said he expects to be arguing before the court of appeals early next year.

“This is a huge issue,” he said. “No one should feel safe. Our court system completely got this issue backwards. We have to start holding more people accountable, not less,​ more people accountable for the decisions that they make, that allow the opportunity for these abusers, these pedophiles, to literally feast on our children. It’s wrong.​ We need as a society to make these businesses step up and take preventative measures so it never happens to anyone ever again.”

FOX 17 reached out to Bronson’s attorney but did not receive a call back by Sunday night.