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Prevention Training Key to Addressing Abuse at Kids' Camps

A former manager says every kids' camp should have sexual abuse prevention training for its staff. (Bureau of Land Management/Flickr)
A former manager says every kids' camp should have sexual abuse prevention training for its staff. (Bureau of Land Management/Flickr)
December 14, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – Are children's camps doing enough to prevent sexual abuse? That's a question being raised after a CBS report this week identified more than 500 cases of alleged abuse at camps across the country over the past half-century.

Wickes MacColl, a former manager at Paradise Point Episcopal camp in McCall, says programs like "Darkness to Light," which she brought to Paradise Point, offer training to help protect children. MacColl says camp can be one of the best experiences of a child's life, and it's every camp's duty to keep kids safe while they're there.

"It's our responsibility as camp directors and boards of camps to make sure that we give a full, wraparound service of safety,”says MacColl. “And one of those services has got to be that every member of the staff is trained with a reputable program that helps provide safety from child sexual abuse."

MacColl says parents shouldn't be discouraged from sending their kids to camp and points to multiple training programs. For instance, Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children curriculum offers safe ways for camp counselors and staff to interact with children.

MacColl says camp counselors especially appreciated the sexual abuse prevention training.

"The young adults were just so thankful to have a tool to be open with the youngsters that they were going to be caring for, and with a beautiful boundary all set up for them,”says MacColl. “It was a skill area they had no idea how to deal with."

Child sexual abuse is prevalent and has effects that ripple through a person's life. According to the CDC, one in ten children will be sexually abused before age 18.

MacColl says talking about abuse at camp is a good avenue for talking about abuse prevention in other arenas as well.

"We really do need to be able to talk about this as a society, and starting to talk about it at camp seems like a perfect place for young adults and communities to come together to see it in action,”says MacColl.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID