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Center Works To Prevent Abuse

Staff members of Plainview’s Mid-Island Y JCC summer camp programs intend to give its campers a fun summer experience, as well as a safe one. As a preventative measure, staff members were educated on how to stop child sex abuse from occurring through the Silence2Strength program on Thursday, June 5.

Each year on Long Island, there are over 16,000 reports of child maltreatment, according to The Safe Center LI, the creators of the Silence2Strengh program. As long as a child’s boundaries are being crossed, emotionally or physically, it is considered abuse.

Despite the camp having no prior history of abuse, the program was held in order to identify and stop issues that may arise to ensure the safety of the campers. It is the goal of Mid-Island Y JCC to make sure that the kids have a good time, but the camp’s number one priority is to keep children safe.

The more people who know how to prevent or notice abuse, the safer the kids are, according to the Director of Education at The Safe Center, Anthony Zenkus.

Zenkus equated speaking out about child abuse to rescuing someone from drowning in a pool: every second counts.

“Even if they say, ‘please don’t tell anyone,’ your job is to say something,” said Zenkus. “One of the reasons why people don’t speak out is because they’re afraid.”

The Safe Center LI gives parents, professionals, and community members the knowledge needed in order to keep children safe from sexual abuse. The organization provides education and services around child abuse, domestic violence and related issues, with its offices located in Bethpage.

The program advised camp counselors on how to identify and prevent physical and emotional abuse, as well as how to interact with kids in a safe way.

A few child abuse and neglect indicators mentioned by Zenkus included unexplained bruises, easily frightened or fearful behavior, eating disorders, dirty or torn clothing and antisocial behaviors.

Zenkus advised the camp staff to respect the personal boundaries of the campers. If contact needs to be made, the counselors should first ask the camper for permission.

Director of Youth and Camping Services, Joshua Henkel knows that taking preventative measures to stop and also identify abuse is important. As a father himself, he takes these types of matters very seriously.

Henkel addressed the staff to come to him if they are ever unsure whether a situation is appropriate or not.

Mid-Island Y JCC offer day camps, travel camps and CIT programs. The summer camp is for students from kindergarten to 10th grade. This summer, there will be over 600 campers who will be overseen by 200 members of the camp staff.

Counselors range from CIT counselors going into 10th grade, to supervisors who are adults with children and full-time jobs. All of the camp staff and supervisors were present at the meeting including Assistant Camp Director, Gayle Jukofsky.

Mid-Island Y JCC brought in The Safe Center so the staff understands what is fully expected of them. When applying this knowledge to situations, it will help keep the campers safe in unexpected situations, explained Jukofsky.    

Zenkus hopes that more camps and schools will follow in the footsteps of the Mid-Island Y JCC, and hold a similar conversation on the topic of child abuse.