It was 1:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday. I had been fly fishing in the Bushkill Creek since sun up. It was one of those bluebird days. A day when you know it’s going to be hot. The trees lining the creek offered no relief because they had just started to flower. The fishing is hard. You have to move and cover lots of water. “Let’s go down stream,” my stepfather says. “Towards the Delaware.” After a long, three mile trek back to the truck for some lunch, it felt like the early summer days at the Leesport Pool when I was a kid!
Then Led Zeppelin came on the radio and, in an instant, I was back at the pool. Top tunes from the 70s being blasted through those old style trumpet speakers, all treble, not much bass, and the sounds of splashing, four square--all of the thoughts of those long gone summertime days. Then a cool breeze wisped through the truck as we started down the road. That’s when another summertime memory hit me – church camp!
I have said many times that I had a great childhood. Thanks to my mom and St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Mohrsville, PA I was able to attend Bear Creek Camp, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The tall, majestic Pocono Mountain pines surrounding the spring fed lake, streams with salamanders, waterfalls and pine sap shampoo, camp fires, long hikes in the woods, the girls, the super cool counselors, the confidence boosting team-building exercises, the forest’s crunchy carpet, the tarp tents, and the prayers. I went there every summer for a week with all of my friends from Sunday school until I was 16.
So here I am with my memories, working on our monthly newsletter and thinking about our internal discussions regarding a recent article for our website – “5 tips for choosing the right summer camp for your kids”. No, not because I enjoyed summer camp so much, but because of my work here at RAACE. Obviously a parent’s biggest fear is when we leave our kids out of our sight, especially for a week!
We must do our homework; the reality is that camp and its counselors, staff, etc. are part of our Circle of Trust - individuals who have access to your child both on a regular and part-time basis. Talking about child sexual abuse with your children and their Circle of Trust can help protect them.
So, to keep your child and other children in your community safe, camp staff--paid employees, leaders, and volunteers--must be educated about child sexual abuse prevention as well.
I have heard many reasons why parents are honest about sexuality with their children or, even worse, not talking with their children about how to protect themselves against sexual abuse. Like this one: “We teach our children to not go near someone they don’t know, basically - stay away from strangers.” The reality is that over 90 percent of all child sexual abuse occurs at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts. Parents who teach only stranger danger are actually doing a disservice to their child. That’s why our Circle of Trust worksheet is so vital to our mission to prevent abuse.
There are three easy steps to our Circle of Trust worksheet. Please visit http://www.raace.org/build-your-circle-of-trust to get started. Remember to talk with each person listed in your circle, especially those at the camp you have chosen, letting them know your family has taken steps to educate yourselves about the statistics of child sexual abuse and prevention tips, and direct them to our RAACE.org website to learn how they can do the same. Your proactive intervention will help create more RAACE Fans — a powerful team to fight the war against abuse. Together, simply by talking about it — one family at a time — we can take away the tools of those who abuse children and we can put an end to this silent epidemic. It all starts with U.