As the excitement of summer approaches and the sense of normalcy returns from the pandemic, many youth will be making their way to summer camps soon. If you are sending your child to a day or sleepaway camp this summer, make sure you prepare them and are doing your research to help protect your child from predators.
It is reported that 1 in 10 will be victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18, and tragically, summer camps are the perfect environment for child predators to groom children. Too commonly, children are taught “stranger danger,” but 90% of child abuse victims are abused by someone they know and trust. While you can never eliminate the possibility of sexual abuse, here are eight ways you can prevent child sexual abuse and better prepare your child to be safe.
1. Screen the summer camp.
Always do your research into who is running the camp. Find out who will oversee your child’s camp, how they go about hiring the individual leading it, and what kind of training or experience is required. Ask important questions like, how are the children monitored, how are bathroom breaks managed, are background checks required (including the sex offenders registry), and what type of youth protection training is provided to camp staff and volunteers?
2. Teach your child about unsafe adults.
Talk to your child about adults who might be unsafe. These may be people who ask you to break safety rules, ask you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or give you lots of nice things, attention, and gifts, but also tells you to keep it a secret. Remind your child that this could be someone they know.
3. Educate about body parts.
Before sending your child to summer camps, be sure to teach them the proper names for their body parts including penis, vagina, scrotum, and anus. Explain that these parts are very private. Should your child ever experience some form of abuse, they will be better prepared to report it.
4. Prepare your child with safety rules.
Before your child heads off to camp, prepare them with safety guidelines. Make sure there are at least two adults present at all times and remind your child they should never be alone with just one adult. Talk to them about who they can go places with, when, and where they are allowed to safely go.
5. Tell your child it’s okay to say no and remove themselves from uncomfortable situations. Make sure your child knows that they can say no when a situation makes them feel uncomfortable and if they feel unsafe it is okay to yell for help. Give your child examples and remind them that you will always trust and believe them.
6. Create a family password.
If someone else is picking your child up from camp, set up a family password. Whoever is picking up the child should know this password and so should your child. Remind your child, if the person picking them up doesn’t know the password, then do not get in the car.
7. Know the warning signs of abuse.
Pay close attention to the behaviors and moods of your child. Watch for unexplained physical injuries, increased anxiety or depression, bedwetting, or any other major changes in your child.
8. Know what to do if you suspect abuse.
Explain to your child that if they have experienced abuse it is not their fault and they should always tell a trusted adult. Remind them you will always believe them and it is your job to help them find safety.