Sexual Abuse at Summer Camps: What You Need to Know

Countless children visit summer camp annually for what’s usually a safe and fun experience. However, in some instances, those you entrust your children to may not be as safe as you hope. Before you send your child to summer camp, you should familiarize yourself with the signs of sexual abuse and what you can do if it occurs.

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent sexual abuse at summer camps, there are certain steps you can take to avoid, identify, and protect your child from this type of abuse. Educating yourself and your child about boundaries and learning to spot abusers can help you take the right steps to protect them in many cases.

How to Spot Sexual Abuse

The last thing any parent ever wants is to consider that their child may have been sexually exploited or abused. Unfortunately, the reality is that understanding the signs could be the only way to put a stop to it. A few of the tell-tale signs of child sexual abuse, according to the California Department of Education, are:

  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Changes in behavior or moods
  • Bedwetting
  • Reluctance to go back to camp
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts

It is important to note that not all of these mean your child was sexually abused, though they are cause for alarm. Consider action if your child, especially after visiting a summer camp, displays any of these signs. Your child may hesitate to share the truth, but you can work with them to find it.

There Are Steps You Can Take to Minimize the Chances of Sexual Abuse at Summer Camps

While it is impossible to prepare your child for the possibility of sexual abuse fully, there are still steps you can take to prepare them. Before sending your child off to camp, you should familiarize yourself with every possible precaution. Hopefully, this will prevent tragedy for your child and others.

Educate Your Children on Appropriate Touching

When your child is old enough to go out on their own, under the watch of other adults, they should understand appropriate touching. If they know something is wrong, they will be more likely to resist and tell another adult about it. You should also teach them how to resist an attempt properly, should they find themselves in that position.

Recognize Potential Abusers

While it can be difficult to recognize an abuser in every case, there are certain signs and types of people that you can look for to help your child avoid abuse. In many cases, child sexual abuse happens between a child and a guardian or adult in charge of the child, though many cases of sexual abuse are perpetrated by older children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also found that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 20 boys suffer sexual abuse.

Always Screen the Summer Camps Before Signup

As you look for the perfect summer camp for your child, ask questions about how the camp is run. For example, you may ask questions about their process of background checking, which can help prevent known sexual abusers from entering the camp. You may also ask about other safety protocols the camp may employ to keep your children safe.

What Can I Do If My Child Suffered Sexual Abuse at Camp?

Sadly, preventing all incidents of sexual abuse can be difficult. You may have already found that your child has suffered abuse, and you may be concerned about getting them the help they need. You may also be concerned about holding the camp accountable for failing to protect your child’s well-being, especially as mandated reporters under California Penal Code 11165.7.

In these cases, you may have grounds to file a sexual abuse lawsuit on behalf of your child. When a camp fails to protect children and prevent sexual abuse within the summer camp, the employers and the person responsible for the abuse may be held accountable for their actions. In these situations, you may have grounds to help your child get the help and compensation they need for closure and recovery.