‘Recognize, resist and report’: campers learn about predators

Navy and Marine Corps veteran and Boy Scout leader Gene Hopper talks to Prepared, Not Scared campers about predators and the dangers of Internet strangers. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Navy and Marine Corps veteran and Boy Scout leader Gene Hopper talks to Prepared, Not Scared campers about predators and the dangers of Internet strangers. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—“We’re going to talk about some pretty tough situations here,” Gene Hopper said to the group of Prepared, Not Scared campers gathered in front of him at the Alabama Wildlife Center in Oak Mountain State Park.

Run by Fresh Air Family, Prepared, Not Scared is a safety-focused camp that aims to educate fourth through seventh grade children on survival in all types of situations through hands-on activities and presentations from a variety of guests, such as deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Throughout the week long camp, children learn about wilderness and natural disaster survival as well as safety tips for the modern world, such as Internet and gun safety.

Hopper, a Navy and Marine Corps veteran and Boy Scout troop leader, visited Prepared, Not Scared on July 8 to teach the children about sexual predators, both in everyday life and on the Internet, and give them tools to “recognize, resist and report” potentially dangerous or abusive situations.

“Abuse comes in a lot of different varieties,” Hopper said, explaining sexual predators can be youth leaders, older kids and even family members. “Your body is yours… Nobody should be touching you without your permission.”

Through an interactive conversation, Hopper explained a variety of scenarios and campers identified “danger signals,” such as an adult inviting a child into an isolated place, separating a child from friends and family, or an older teen paying unusual attention to younger children.

Hopper also told campers predators exist on the Internet and often will pretend to be someone they are not. Hopper warned children against meeting any “Internet stranger,” and identified red flags, such as asking for personal information and requesting to meet in person.

“When you’re typing on a keyboard you can say anything because you’re not looking anyone in the eye,” Hopper said. “You can lie really good.”

Hopper stressed the importance of alerting a trusted adult, such as parents or law enforcement, to any potentially abusive or dangerous situation.

“Tell somebody, the authorities are a good place to start. An abuser will often try to tell you you’re going to get in trouble,” Hopper said, emphasizing that “no matter what the situation is nobody is going to blame them (the victim).”