Child Abuse and Molestation at Camps

Every summer thousands of kids go off to summer camp.  Unfortunately, summer camp is an ideal place for abusers; in recent years, sexual abuse has occurred at Christian camps, publicly funded camps, and Boy Scout camps.

Ninety-five percent of the sexual abuse of youngsters is done by family members, those who work with children, or those who know them.  Current information indicates that strangers essentially make up about five percent of the reported documented cases.  Eighty-four percent of sexual abuse of children is unreported.  Many parents do not want their child labeled as a survivor of sexual abuse and make the decision to deal with it privately rather than involve law enforcement.  When that decision is made, most often the abuser is free to repeat the behavior while he or she unfortunately remains anonymous.

There are five important steps parents can take to prevent their child from becoming a victim of abuse:

  1. Educate about body parts and use the proper terms for all parts.  The use of euphemisms can jeopardize your child’s credibility should they someday need to report abuse.  Explain that these parts of their body are very private, and that no one should be touching them there unless that person has a legitimate reason (e.g., a pediatrician).
  2. Parents should screen the camp before sending their child.  It is important for parents to know that the camp has policies and procedures in place to minimize the risk of sexual abuse.
  3. Recognize potential abusers.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2005 that 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually assaulted before the age of 18.  The vast majority of abusers (90%) are male, and 71% of the time, the abuser knows the victim.  Whenever someone seems to be overly interested in your child, beware.  Camps routinely forbid their counselors to babysit or spend time with campers outside camp precisely because a counselor who has had the opportunity to develop a close relationship with your child is in a position to have an undue amount of influence.
  4. Know the warning signs of sexual abuse in younger children:
    • Trouble walking or sitting
    • Precocious awareness of sexual topics
    • Seductive behavior
    • Unprecedented shyness about getting undressed
    • Avoiding a specific individual for no apparent reason
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Bed wetting or soiling
    • Expressing concern about genitalia
    • Reluctance to go back to camp
  5. Warning signs of sexual abuse in older children:
    • Unusual interest in or avoidance of sexual topics
    • Depression or suicidal thoughts
    • Self-isolation/emotional aloofness
    • Hostility or aggressive behavior
    • Secretiveness
    • Seductive behavior
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Substance abuse
    • Reluctance to go back to camp
  6. If you suspect abuse, know what to do.  Support your child.  Research shows that the single most important factor in a child’s doing well after being abused is the steady emotional support of their parents.  Explain that abuse is never, ever their fault.  Make sure they know you believe them.  Some children never report sexual abuse because they fear they won’t be believed, especially when the abuser is known and trusted by the family.  Praise them for sharing.  Then immediately notify the local authorities and contact an attorney at The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander.

Sadly, child sexual abuse often occurs at summer camp.  Children are especially vulnerable at youth camps because they are away from their homes for an extended period of time without the supervision of their parents. If you suspect your child has been the victim of sexual abuse while at a youth camp, contact the experienced summer camp sexual abuse attorneys at The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander today.  Our attorneys will fight to protect your civil rights and your privacy in this difficult time.  We firmly believe that no act of child abuse should go unpunished.  Call our office today at 312-425-9100.