Young Life organization failed to protect members and employees from sexual misconduct

Katrina Swan, Staff Writer

Former members of the Christian youth group Young Life accused the organization of failing to protect employees from sexual misconduct in its programs earlier this fall. 

According to its website, Young Life is a religious organization with the intention to “introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith” through local meetings and camps. It contains over 8,500 local ministries that over 400,000 children attend, according to Insider. On Oct. 7, Insider published an article about their six-month long investigation into Young Life. This investigation exposed 10 allegations from women who claimed they experienced sexual misconduct in their staff, volunteer or student positions in the organization. 

“My reaction to the allegations is that I am upset,” Sydney Craddock (‘22) said. “The fact that some people are taking advantage of their positions in an environment that is supposed to be a fun yet safe place is wrong on so many levels.”

The investigation included an allegation by Laureana Arellano, a former volunteer leader in Colorado, who claimed she was sexually assaulted by a fellow staff member at a Young Life summer camp in 2019. Arellano said the organization failed to investigate the situation sufficiently after she reported it. Young Life denied Arellano’s claims. This allegation was the foundation of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commision complaint and federal lawsuit that has since been settled out of court. 

“I heard about Young Life and how it was a fun place to go and make friends, and that’s exactly what I’ve received from the group and more,” Craddock said.

Craddock has been a part of Madison Young Life since she moved from Arizona three years ago. Young Life Madison is a chapter of the larger Young Life organization. The local chapter helped her transition to Madison by finding new friends to share her faith with. She attends the organization’s activities on Wednesday fun nights, which include bonfires, games, sports and paint wars. Craddock enjoys bringing friends to an environment she feels welcomed and has always had positive experiences in. At the events she’s attended, the allegations of abuse have not been addressed. 

“I’ve never heard this being discussed at Young Life,” Craddock said. “All I know about Madison’s Young Life is that everyone is trying to make it as welcoming and open as possible to everyone.”