Relationships at Camp: Challenges & Opportunities

When I think back to my years at camp, I remember getting to take a step back from the stresses in life to enjoy a summer filled with fun and exciting times. Camp was a close and tight-knit environment where I felt safe, secure, and happy. I felt a special bond with my camp friends and close to my counselors.  That level of comfort and closeness is one of the benefits of a camp community for both staff and campers. However, it is important to recognize the difficulties of such an environment for dating, especially when it comes to unhealthy relationships.

Here are a few things to consider about unhealthy relationship dynamics in camp’s unique environment.

Feeling Trapped:

Someone in an unhealthy relationship may feel trapped in that relationship while they’re at camp which influences the choices they feel they do or do not have. They may not feel like they can break up with their partner since in an enclosed camp community they will likely have to continue to see them every day. They may also fear that their partner’s abusive behavior will escalate after breaking up but they’ll have no way to avoid them while still at camp.

Technology (or lack thereof):

During camp,access to technology can be very limited due to camp policies. However, it’s still important to recognize and understand the role that technology can play in abusive relationships. Campers and staff may arrive at camp in relationships from home or leave camp in a relationship that technology is introduced into when they return home. A warning sign at camp that someone may be experiencing technological abuse is when they won’t turn off or put away their phone or has an extreme reaction to those requests in fear of how their partner will respond if they don’t answer texts and calls.

Trusted Adults:

Without a familiar adult figure present, campers may be unsure of who to turn to if they are in an abusive relationship. It is important that campers identify trusted adults such as counselors, social workers, nurses, or camp directors they can talk to if they need support.

From Camp to School:

Abusive relationships can begin before or during camp, and may continue after camp. The change in environment from home to camp, or vice versa, may introduce or remove elements like technology, distance, school, and parents, that could cause the relationship dynamic to change or the abuse to escalate. Learn the warning signs of dating abuse so you’ll recognize when a teen in your life needs.

A positive benefit of the unique camp environment is the opportunity provided to educate and raise awareness about dating abuse among staff and campers. The safe space for discussion and learning created within camp communities is why AWARE® facilitators always enjoy our summer workshops and trainings. To review important information shared in those workshops about recognizing the warning signs of abuse and how to help yourself or a friend, visit the Get Help section of the JCADA website.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or dating abuse, please contact JCADA for support on our confidential helpline: 1-877-88-JCADA(52232).

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