The Hidden Dangers of Sexual Abuse at Summer Camp, Sleepaway Camps, Youth Camps, and Church Camps
School is out and summer is here. It’s the time of year when many parents send their kids off on that grand adventure: sleepaway camp. Summer camp can be an exciting time for kids when they make new friends and get a taste of independence from their families. Parents, too, often appreciate the weeks of sleep-away camp, for a variety of reasons.
It is an enormous leap of faith for parents to hand their child over to a camp for sometimes weeks at a time. They have to trust that the child is in a supervised, safe environment. But as we see every summer, no place is completely safe, not even the idyllic summer camp. A recent CBS news investigation uncovered 578 incidents of sexual abuse at summer camps. Experts believe the real number is much higher because most incidents are not reported and many of those which are reported are handled internally without law enforcement involvement.
The fact is that no matter how picturesque the camp looks in its brochures, the risk of childhood sexual abuse in summer camp exists and it occurs more often than most people realize. No matter what we do to protect our children, there is always a risk that they may be harmed when they are away from us. In most states, there are laws in place to keep sexual predators out of daycare centers and schools. Rarely do the same prohibitions apply in the summer camp setting. Many states do not require background checks for counselors who work at overnight camps. Further, many counselors come from foreign countries and their histories may not show up in a traditional background check.
There is no fool-proof way to protect your child from all harms while at summer camp. There are, however, some prudent considerations and questions to ask when selecting a camp:
- What risk-management procedures does the camp have in place?
- How are staff, counselors, and volunteers screened and selected? Are criminal background checks being performed prior to supervision?
- How are volunteers trained before they supervise camp-sponsored trips?
- What kind of discipline code is followed? Is it enforced? By whom?
- Are yelling, bullying, harassment, or physical force tolerated? How are incidents of violence and abuse handled?
- Do campers know whom they can talk with and what to do if they feel unsafe?
- Are appropriate procedures in place to prevent teachers, counselors, and volunteers from being alone, one-on-one, with children?
- Are at least two counselors or adults present in each cabin at a sleep-away camp?
- On field trips, is there adequate supervision for the size of the group? Are there, for example, at least two staff members or volunteers for class trips of eight or ten students?
- Are age groups reasonably established and kept separate for activities and sleeping?
Attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in representing victims of child sexual abuse at summer camps in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of child sexual abuse at a summer camp, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org