For as long as I can remember, summer camps and scouting programs have been invested in giving children the skills to navigate their worlds in a bigger and bolder way, by providing a place to explore outside formal educational systems in safe spaces, gently moderated by adults who foster growth in healthy ways.
When stories of abuse within some of these programs began to surface about two decades ago, many administrators implemented policies and procedures to protect the children in their care.
In order for these policies to protect children from sexual abuse, we need to understand the anatomy of assault.
Addressing access and isolation:
Perpetrators look for systems that have flaws in security, just like any other criminal. They need access to potential targets, the possibility of isolating them, and to instil just enough fear, misplaced trust, or shame, to keep them silent.
To mitigate the risk of sexual assault in your organization, all of these issues must be addressed. Practical requirements should include a policy that no staff member may be alone with a child, along with an open-door policy, creating visually open spaces where all can be seen. Adding security cameras in areas with less visibility and making sure restrooms are located in high traffic areas will help enforce these policies.
But isolation can be created without physical walls. It can be emotional and social too. The process for reporting inappropriate behavior must be accessible, safe and sensitive. When all staff and charges are treated with respect and are expected to treat others with respect, you will have created a safe and inclusive community.
For sexual abuse prevention policies to work, there must also be a zero-tolerance policy for any breaches. Inappropriate comments, conversations, and behaviors must lead to immediate termination.
The staff member with a child, “just for a second," in a bunk getting a towel, alone - that must necessar