When I was a kid, I'd walk home from school with my best friend, who lived just a few blocks away from me. We were sauntering along one day when we passed a man walking in the opposite direction. After a few minutes, my friend began to cry quietly.
Alarmed, I asked, "What's wrong?" She only shook her head and cried harder.
I had no idea what had happened to upset her. I knew it couldn't have been something I said or did because we were just discussing homework. Wanting to help, I kept asking what had happened, but she said she didn't want to talk about it.
Later, when she had calmed down and we were almost home, she told me that the man we passed on the sidewalk had grabbed her breast, squeezing hard. She was in shock, embarrassed and ashamed. "Don't tell anyone," she begged.
Whatever I thought might be the matter, this definitely wasn't something I could ever have imagined. I didn't know how to react. How did I not notice this happening to my friend when I was walking right next to her?
When I think about this now, my blood boils. We were 11 years old. The concept of sexual assault was unimaginable at that age. Now, as the parent of a child not that much younger than I was, I'm ever-vigilant in public places. But, as the recent cases of sex abuse at aquatics facilities show, there are areas where this can be more difficult.
This is why we decided to focus this month on what aquatics facilities can do to safeguard patrons against sexual predators while on their site. In "How to Safeguard Children from Sexual Abuse in Your Facility" Rebecca Robledo talks to industry experts to give pool operators practical advice they can implement now. Some involve small changes to procedures, while others are broader in scope. We hope you find them all useful.