Summertime is almost here! Soon our littles will be out of school and off to a new set of activities for the warmest and happiest of all seasons. If we’ve decided on a new activity for our children, whether it’s summer camp, new art classes, or a sport centered activity, we need to think about more than just sunscreen, first aid, and water breaks. Of course we think about proper nutrition, a staff trained in CPR, and proper staff to child ratios, but what about keeping our little artists, musicians and athletes safe from sexual abuse this summer? Have we thought about that? Good news! We have!
* Make a site visit. Seeing is more than believing — it’s knowing that the environment your child will be in is safe.
* Have an open, honest discussion with your child about appropriate and inappropriate touch from both counselors and other children at camp or any summertime activity or lesson.
* Educate about body safety by using proper terms for all body parts.
* Make sure your child knows the difference between a “secret” (something to forever be hidden) and a “surprise” (something to be revealed), and that keeping secrets is NEVER a good idea!
* Make sure that no adult is ever allowed to be alone with your child. The only way abusers can do what they do is by having uninterrupted, private access to a child.
* Check to make sure policies and procedures are in place to minimize the risk of sexual abuse, including criminal background checks (including the sex offenders’ registry) performed on all personnel, reference requirements and how are they checked.
* Ask what training staff members receive about child sexual abuse.
* Ensure that your children are aware of what to do if they feel unsafe.
* If your child does report abuse – LISTEN. Listen and believe. Reassure your child that what happened is not his/her fault and then report the abuse to your local authorities.
Please remember that the overwhelming majority of children will end this summer with lasting memories of fun and positive experiences, but a few extra, thoughtful steps can help put your children into the safest category.
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!