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How to ensure your child’s safety at camp: preventing sexual abuse

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You’re gearing up for summer activities and you’ve enrolled your kids in overnight camp. You’re excited and your child is excited. How can you do your best to ensure your child’s safety at camp?

Parents have two primary prevention strategies for reducing the risk of child sexual abuse:  1) Screening caregivers and 2) Teaching kids body-safety rules. While it’s ultimately an adult’s responsibility to protect children through screening caregivers, parents can’t be with children at all times. Here are four body-safety rules for a child/teen who is heading off to summer camp:

  •   No one has the right to touch your private parts.
  •   If someone tries to touch your private parts, say “No,” try to get away, and tell.
  • No adult or older teen is allowed to show you pictures of naked people/ pornography. If anyone tries to show you this kind of material, refuse and tell a trusted adult.
  • If someone tells you to keep a secret about touching private parts/sexual touching or anything that worries, frightens, or upsets you, don’t keep the secret. Talk about it with a trusted adult.

It’s important to discuss your child’s body-safety rules with camp administration (and counselors if possible) prior to your child’s attendance.

These rules can be discussed with kids through “what if” games including;

    • What if…a counselor asked you to keep a secret about playing a touching game, and if you agree, he/she would make you his/her favorite camper?” What could you say and what could you do?
    •  “What if…an older kid brought magazines to camp of naked people/pornography and asked you to sneak out of the bunk at night and look at them?” What could you say and what could you do?
    • “What would you do if a swimming coach at camp made comments about your body that made you uncomfortable?” What could you say and what could you do? 

It’s also important to find out the camp’s policies on parent-child communication. Can kids call home, email, text etc.? Ultimately you want to know how your child can communicate with you if he/she feels unsafe.

Without hesitation, some of my best childhood memories are of summer camp—fun-filled days, great friends, and new adventures. Here’s to making your child’s summer fun—and safe.

 Feather Berkower is child abuse prevention educator and author. In her popular workshop, Parenting Safe Children, she has educated thousands of parents around the country on keeping kids safe from sexual abuse. To register for a workshop, schedule a phone consultation, or buy her book, visit

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson June 5, 2013

    My daughter leaves for camp next week and these tips are perfectly timely.

  • comment avatar Lisa June 5, 2013

    Thanks for making this so straight forward. The what if game is a great way to help kids really think about and try strategies for handling uncomfortable situations.

  • comment avatar Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey June 12, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this important post.