Authorities are warning parents who allow their teenage children to attend outdoor bush parties are putting the kids in danger.
The concern from officials such as Vernon School District drug and alcohol counsellor Doug Rogers stems after a Vernon teen was stabbed earlier this month at a bush party near Becker Lake, where an estimated 300 people attended the party.
He was taken out of the bush by friends who called an ambulance which met the group at Noble Canyon Road in Lavington. The victim was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and underwent surgery.
Rogers has seen the aftermath of bush parties in local schools, and advises bush party season has begun.
“I see kids that don’t look very good; physically they’re in rough shape,” said Rogers, a father of three, including two teens.
“There are arguments, bickering about somebody talking to somebody’s boyfriend carrying on from the party. These are choices that a family makes on family time but we’re the ones picking up the pieces in a lot of cases, whether it’s us, police or the hospital.”
In Prince George last weekend, a man, 19, and woman, 17, were killed at a bush party when the car they were in ended up in a lake.
Dr. Mike Concannon, emergency room physician at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, has also seen bush party carnage.
“We see severely intoxicated kids, drugged kids, kids who have been assaulted,” said Concannon, father of a teenager. “We’ve seen kids pepper sprayed, had rocks thrown at them, flaming logs thrown at them. We’ve seen kids burned either jumping over a fire or pushed into the fire.”
And while Concannon said he’s seen one sexual assault, the Vernon RCMP believe sexual assaults happen regularly at bush parties. They just go unreported.
“I get calls from school counsellors saying ‘this is what I know happened,’ which is the making of a sexual assault, but the kids don’t want to report it because they don’t want their mom or dad to find out,” said Vernon RCMP school liaison officer Const. Kathy Szoboticsanec, a step-mother to growing children.
Parents should also know who goes to the parties. It’s not just high school kids.
“There are people there aged 20, 30 and 40,” said Szoboticsanec.
Added Rogers: “Those people are there to hook up with your child, using their vernacular. If they don’t hook up using their charm, they’ll ply your child with drugs and alcohol.”
Asked what goes on at these parties, Szoboticsanec countered “what doesn’t happen,” referring to drugs, drinking, sexual assaults, stolen vehicles and people leaving parties driving while intoxicated.
“And there are those who will go there who may not drink but look after those friends who have no boundaries, and it puts them in a vulnerable position,” she said. “Now they’re expected to give first aid or take people out of the party.”
Rogers and Szoboticsanec have both heard from parents who say “well the kids just want to have fun and we went to bush parties when we were young” but the party atmosphere is completely different.
All the officials want is for parents to have a knowledge of what happens at the parties that their kids are going to, and to provide a safe alternative.
“This is about keeping our kids safe and balancing it with them having a good time, it’s not about us depressing them from becoming young adults,” said Rogers.
“But we have to raise the knowledge for the parents and have them understand they are putting their kids in harm’s way and allowing them to go to places where drugs and alcohol are readily available, and very negative things may happen.”
Rogers’ recommendations for parents:
- Be open and honest in communication with the children;
- Network with other parents, know their kids’ friends and their parents;
- Never serve or turn a blind eye to alcohol or drug use in your home. “You’re legally responsible. Even when the kids leave your party, parents have legal responsibilities.
- Rogers also suggested via a colleague that instead of allowing kids to go to a bush party, rent a limo and have the kids go to dinner in a limo.