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Dubious Councellors?

June 9, 2008

While perusing the internet looking for an article I found a while back that would perfectly serve as a linked citation for a witty comment I was making elsewhere online, I found this article about how wary parents need to be about councellors at summer camp.

Now, I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think it’s somewhere in the order of 75%+ abuses of children are committed by someone close to the family as a whole, either a relative or close family friend.  The remainder tend to be adults in positions of power who have the capacity to get the child alone; priests, teachers, doctors, and the like, and there are a few exceptions such as luring on the street, or predatious strangers online, but based on any of my expericences leading and attending camps, a camp is one of the safest places possible.

I’m not coming to this in some sort of idealistic camp-is-awesome perspective; I wish I had the faith in the rest of the world to maintain that, but I don’t.  Instead, the extent to which camps work to prevent possible abuses is spectacular.

All of the camps I’ve worked for/with have had extensive policies to prevent any leader/staff member from being alone with the kids; ever.  A leader was to wait outside an open door in front of the infirmary, should a sick kid need a one-on-one cosultation with our medico.  The Chaplain conducted his/her business on the stoop of a distant but highly visible cabin, in one case, or the porch of a central building with low “close” traffic to provide a high degree of privacy, while leaving constant supervision.  Leaders worked in pairs, always, and more was preferred, so there were no chances for unbecoming behaviour or concerning allegations while one leader ducked out to the WC.

Every camp activity was carefully scripted to leave every child supervised at all times, and every leader watched by at least one other leader, both for the camper’s protection and the leader’s protection.  Activities were carefully scripted to keep male councellors away from female campers, and vice versa.  Every possible action and interaction is planned to minimize the possibility or harmful action or allegations resulting.

Above and beyond all this inter-staff safety-netting and the like, the campers supervise, as well.  The few times one is left alone with kids, there’s 10 of them.  In all the camps I’ve ever been to, the kids band together like glue.  If there’s one, there’s at least three, there’s never singletons or wanderers on their own.  It just doesn’t happen.

So the mysterious pedophile would not only have to abscond with the child from under the nose of the rest ofthe staff – no small feat, really, but they’d also have to get the same child away from the prying eyes of all the other kids, as well.  Which, I really must add, is beyond comprehension.

The most common scenario is spiriting said child away in the dead of night, or taking them from a bathroom.  Anyone suggesting these has plainly never been to camp.  First off, it’s impossible to overstate how light sleepers those kids are.  I’ve had an entire cabin wake up ’cause someone dropped a teddy bear from the top bunk.  If any of them got up; 1/2 the rest would join them in wakefulness within a minute.  No molester would be able to get that one child out of the cabin alone and unnoticed, not without every other kid in the cabin waking up in the process.  Even if the child was lured willingly. And as fr washrooms, even the boys buddy up to hit the WC; they’re always a distance away from the cabins, and sort of creepy.  Moral support is a must.

Seriously, camps take the safety of kids to extremes.  It’s their everything, ’cause any camp that somehow obtains a shifty reputation is likely tarnished for years, if not ruined for good.  And camps are good for kids and parents – they give parents a week or so off, and kids some time on their own, some independance and a certain degree of freedom both from their folks and from their established circles of friends.

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