Investigation Reveals Sexual Assault of Adolescents in Federally Funded Research Study

An internal investigation has revealed why the $8.8 million Purdue University study was abruptly terminated earlier this year. 

By Katarina Zimmer | December 4, 2017

Purdue University CampusISTOCK, PURDUE9394An investigation into a $8.8 million research study in adolescents at Purdue University that was terminated this summer has revealed more than 30 incidents of threats, violence, or sexual abuse amongst study participants.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Journal & Courier. It was launched to assess the effects of a low sodium diet on blood pressure and cholesterol in adolescents. To do so it had recruited 78 children between the ages of 11 and 15 to take part in the four-week camp-like study at Purdue, known as Camp DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

The investigation, which was released yesterday (December 3), followed multiple incidents reported to the police in the first few weeks of the study. The allegations included possible molestations, and an incident where a study participant injured another with a hot sauna rock, according to the Journal & Courier. In separate cases, two participants were arrested during the first few weeks of the study and then dismissed, whilst another was sent to hospital due to a violent incident.

According to Undark Magazine, an investigation was launched by the university’s vice president for ethics and compliance, Alysa Rollock, after a video of one of the teenage girls showering was posted to social media by another study participant.  

An internal review report states that the principal investigator of the study, nutritionist Connie Weaver, knew about these cases but had failed to take action until well into the program, according to the Journal & Courier. She issued a statement earlier this week: “I accept responsibility for events that occurred at Camp DASH,” she wrote. “The safety and security of research participants always comes first.”

Based on police records and interviews with university staff and the families involved, an investigation by Undark Magazine concluded that the study had suffered from a lack of oversight as well as cost-cutting—participants had been housed in a non-air conditioned residence hall to save costs, for instance.

The remaining three years of the study have been canceled and all of the collected data will be discarded, according to Undark Magazine. Purdue’s Executive Vice president for Research and Partnerships Suresh Garimella tells the Journal & Courier about the incident: “We all kind of regret that the study couldn’t be done. . . . We will do our best to do better next time." 



Posts: 112

December 5, 2017

Morality... It ain't just religion.

I study morality. It's funny that a friend of mine says you should call it ethics... the word "morlity" had too much religious connotation for him. OK, but murder and rape are not ethical violations, they are moral violations.

Many years ago I said that we were going to need to replace our current (learned component) moral system inherited from history that is based on authority and prescedence with one based on reason and understanding or it will not be used. Our current system simply cannot be defended without invoking an authority that derives from a God. 

My friends are militant Dawkins type athiests (actually more so than even him). I used to ask what would replace religion for husbanding morality and the reply was rote that "we have moral instincts so we don't need moral education".  That is not how it works in nature for humans. There is always a genetic and learned component. Both are critical.

I think what we see here from this article and so many other cases in society such as from bullying to tolerance of political corruption, is a lack of moral education leading to a prevalance and tolerance of immoral behavior. The problem is we don't have a defensible moral standard available any more to judge the right and wrong of it. That is what morality is for... judging right and wrong. After decades of work, I have the parts to describe both moral instinct and moral systems that we can use in the future based on reason and logic, backed by a non-arbitrary (and non-religious and non-human) authority. I actually posted the first page of it... total rough draft on zagwap.com. I'll update it tonight (12/5) to the rewritten version that makes sense if you are interested. ... Of course, I've never met anyone interested.


John Saba

Posts: 22

December 5, 2017

This "study" appears to have been very poorly planned and carried out. You cannot put large numbers of children together without adequate supervision and not expect problems.

There was more than an ethical violation here on the part of the so-called adults.

It seems the principal investigator was not sufficiently supervised.

I think a number of people should be disciplined, including the PI, members of the university administration, and the relevant people at the funding agencies.


Posts: 10

December 7, 2017

I just read the report.  It sounds to me like the children lacked discipline, the counsellors weren't trained well enough to handle bad behaviour on the part of the children and the PI was too invested in keeping enough children in the study so badly behaved participants weren't reported and ejected fast enough, leading to a lack of consequences for bad behaviour which encouraged more bad behaviour.  They needed councellors fully trained to handle special needs children and a child psychlologist on staff.