Times of Israel
BY MICHAEL J. SALAMON
May 1, 2018
With summer on the horizon and talk about camp plans at a feverish pitch, this time of year is one of excitement for many. But it can be stressful for those of us who work with sexual abuse survivors. Just a few years ago I wrote about a man that I was treating who had been sexually abused by a counselor in a sleepaway camp when he was in his early teens. I never mentioned his name nor the name of the camp. But after the piece was published, I was inundated with letters, e-mails and calls from other men — older and younger than he — telling me about their similar experiences.
In all, more than 100 people contacted me. About 30 of them had been to the same camp and were abused by the same counselor who had been promoted over the years to head counselor. It was an open secret that he would select campers to go skinny dipping with him late at night and would abuse them. Still, he was revered by many at the camp.
That abusive man has since passed on. But stories like that do not. There are many similar cases, and while there is a significant effort to prevent abuse through stricter policies and more robust vetting, it is a given that abuse will likely continue to occur.
Last summer I was informed of two situations at sleepaway camps where abuse occurred. Both of those took place at camps that have anti-harassment and abuse policies – an absolute must. What is most often missing, though, is the necessary supervision of camp employees, the need to believe a person who finally feels strong and comfortable enough to report that he or she was abused, and the proper education of children who go off to camp. While it would be a fool’s errand to believe that all abuse can be eradicated, it is these three areas — staff supervision, believing victims and educating children that can provide the most effective buffer against abusers.
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