The Threat of Physical Violence

This is (hopefully) a rare occurrence in a camp environment, a situation where a camper is in a position to be a physical threat to her/his counselors. In order to place this in context, I’ll talk about a scenario that I found myself in two summers ago, and explain how I dealt with it.

To use the kayaks in boating sessions, our campers have to complete 25 lengths in our pool, and to help them achieve this, counselors sometimes get in and complete it with them, cheering them on. I was doing just that. I had not swum properly for a while, and so was finding it just as hard going as the campers! When I had finished, I got out of the pool to an ongoing situation with my co-counselor and a camper. The camper had become aggressive, and was shouting at my co, and flicking a towel around at him. Rightly so, my co was not reacting to that, and trying to get him to calm down, my co-counselor was doing everything right, but it just wasn’t working.

I volunteered to be a ‘new face’, and take over where my co left off, just as the camper ran into the pump room of the pool. I followed him in, and he continued to be verbally aggressive, and to flick the towel at my face. I continued my co-counselors responses, trying to calm him down and get him out of the pump room. As he didn’t get the response he wanted, he picked up a wrench that was nearby, and started waving it around.

This is the point where the situation changed from inappropriate, to dangerous. As this was not going to resolve itself in a favorable manner (well for me anyway!), I took the wrench from his hands, and escorted him out of the pump room, where I made it quite clear how unacceptable this was. He was then passed over to a member of our Support and Intervention Team [SIT].

I think that this is the crux of my argument, that when circumstances like this occur, as rare as they are, they have to be resolved quickly, and in a way that you may not usually want to conduct yourself. At camp, I am easy-going and will attempt to talk to campers in a way that doesn’t show anger or condemnation, but helps to reason through their behavior with them. After this event, I had a long talk with my Unit Leader, as I felt very guilty and upset about how I had handled it, but now I don’t believe there was another way, because of what could have happened.

Leave a Reply