Protecting Your Children from Sexual Abuse in Summer Camps
Posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2021 at 8:55 pm
It’s summer break, and millions of children across the country are enjoying their time in camp. We trust that our children will be safe during their summer activities, but the risk of sexual abuse is an unfortunate reality. Summer camps offer ample opportunity for predators. Camps are often staffed by inexperienced counselors whose backgrounds may not have been thoroughly investigated. Keep your children safe this summer by following these simple steps.
Vet the camp. Your first step to keeping your child safe is to do your research on the camp you choose. Check out reviews online and, if you know other families whose kids have attended, ask what they have to say about it. Before signing up your child, have a conversation with the camp director. Below are some questions you can ask to ascertain your child’s safety.
- What is your process for background checks on employees? Do you include the sex offender’s registry?
- Are your staff trained about child sexual abuse?
- What is the reporting process when abuse has been discovered?
- Are staff members ever allowed to be alone with a camper?
These questions should give you a good understanding of how seriously the camp takes allegations of abuse. If they don’t have clear and thorough responses to your questions, consider sending your children to a different camp. Just because they’ve never had a problem in the past doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in future. Every camp needs to be prepared in the event of abuse.
Educate your child. Having a frank conversation with your young child about body parts may seem daunting, but it could mean the difference between confusion and awareness if the worst ever happens. Tell your child what body parts are not appropriate for an adult to touch, and that if someone tries, they should report it to you (and/or a camp counselor) immediately. Let them know that keeping secrets about touching is never okay and that they will not get in trouble for reporting it.
Recognize the signs. Many parents do not know what signs to look out for when their child may have been abused. Below is a list of some of the most common signs and symptoms that may indicate abuse has occurred. Most important, however, is open communication between you and your child. If you sense that something is off, trust your instincts and have a conversation about it as soon as possible. This is more difficult if your child is at a sleepaway camp, so make sure to stay in contact as frequently as you can.
- Sudden, new, or frequent bed-wetting
- Trouble walking or sitting
- Strange behavior like being provocative or flirtatious, not wanting to get undressed, or suddenly avoiding someone without a reason
- Severe nightmares or trouble sleeping
- Reluctance to go back to camp
Take immediate action. If abuse does occur, offer as much emotional support as your child requires. Sexual abuse affects every victim differently, so it’s hard to know how an individual will handle trauma. Be open and understanding no matter what their reaction may be. Assure your child that abuse is never, ever their fault. No matter how guilty they feel, or what their abuser said to convince them it was their fault, your child did nothing wrong. Finally, notify local authorities about the abuse as soon as possible. You can also report the incident to the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Child abuse at a summer camp is not excusable and should have been prevented. If your child was abused at a summer camp, you deserve the chance to fight for their rights. Contact us at (212) 779-0057 for a free and confidential review of your situation.