According to the RCMP, a recent assault involving a 16-year-old getting urinated on is just the tip of the iceberg.
The act occurred at a bush party April 20 in rural Enderby, and police suspect it was committed by two individuals, aged 17 and 18.
RCMP school liaison Const. Kathy Szoboticsanec says the type of behaviour is all too common, and sparsely reported.
"No one wants to talk for fear of being a rat, which makes it very challenging to hold anyone accountable," Szoboticsanec says.
RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says the bush party scene is a recipe for disaster. Unlike a bar or club, there is no bouncer looking out for people's safety.
"You have individuals who get happy when they drink, others who get angry and want to fight—and everything else in between," Molendyk says.
Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, things can escalate fast. Bolstered by a shot of tequila, an individual might make a haughty remark. Insults are exchanged. Suddenly, fists are flying and someone is on the ground. Maybe the assailant thinks it would be funny to urinate on the fallen peer.
"There's this group mentality, people aren't thinking clearly. You have an unorganized group of 80-150 people, no supervision. There are so many things that can go wrong," Molendyk says.
Assaults represent only a sliver of the danger. Inebriated teens could stumble into a bonfire and suffer burns. They could take a swim in the lake and never come out. They could pass out in the woods and die of hypothermia.
"Parents won't start looking until the morning," Molendyk says.
As a whole new group of grade twelves prepare to walk across the stage, Molendyk is bracing himself for what can be a very emotional time of year.
"Nothing is more horrible than for one of our officers to go to a parent's residence and have to tell them some of the worst information we have to provide," Molendyk says. "Every year our officers go to a house, and tell a parent their loved one is not coming home. It affects the member to the core."
And if you think grad parties are just for grads, think again. Molendyk says there are older individuals attracted to just that sort of unsupervised and lawless atmosphere provided by bush parties.
"We're constantly concerned about women getting sexually assaulted," Molendyk says. "If (an) individual fancies younger girls, then here's the mix. (He's) old enough to bring alcohol."
Szoboticsanec believes if parents knew what kind of people were at these parties, they'd never let their kids go.
She says kids are keen to ensure what happens at the party stays at the party. That means a lot of unsavoury acts go unreported.
"I always encourage kids to report it, bring it to someone's attention, to disclose when something isn't right," Szoboticsanec says. "They might not think it's a big deal, but they might be saving someone's life."
The problem with keeping your lips sealed is that no one is held accountable.
"You have a victim who will never have closure because their friends weren't willing to step up," Szoboticsanec says.
On top of that, Szoboticsanec says you have a bully who will strike again. When they don't get caught, or penalized, offenders feel like their actions have no consequences, and that's a dangerous thing.
"There are going to be a lot more of these instances," she says, unless people start speaking up.
Bush parties are a long-standing tradition, and while Molendyk suggests parents host grad parties in their backyards where activities can be supervised, he knows there will always be young people determined to experience the bush party social life.
"If you go, go with someone, look after each other, and if something bad happens, get out," Molendyk says. "Luckily, 99 per cent of the time, we come out and the majorty of people are safe."
That remaining one per cent hangs heavy for people like Molendyk who know what it's like to deliver tragic news to parents expecting to tease their kid about a hangover when they get home.
"The majority of the time, nothing happens. But there are people whose lives are changed dramatically," Molendyk says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.