People who attend programs include participants and leaders of mature age. They may be sexually active and choose to be so when on a program. Some participants and leaders may come to program with a partner and wish to continue their normal sexual relationship.
Whatever the relationship of participants or leaders, it may be reasonable to restrict sexual activity, and the right to sleep together particularly where facilities are limited.
Usually at a camp, sleeping accommodation provides facilities where males are accommodated in one or more areas with females in other areas. This arrangement provides for the privacy needs of participants. At some camps, where facilities can accommodate this, couples can make arrangements for shared sleeping accommodation.
It is important to be aware of the rights of the mature person with a disability to make decisions and to have the freedom to follow through the decisions they make. It is important to have guidelines that will be adhered to by participants and leaders alike.
These guidelines should be made known to participants, leaders and parents/ caregivers before the program. It is not unusual for leaders to become well acquainted with other leaders. Often leaders develop friendships that continue for a long time. It is important in this situation not to let friendship interfere with program processes. Excessive physical contact between certain participants or between certain leaders can be a source of tension or embarrassment to others on a program.
This can become a sensitive situation for a leader to confront. He/she will need to carefully weigh up the individual rights of those who may be embarrassed and those who are causing the embarrassment. The question arises – should leaders and participants, who are not behaving illegally, be asked to conform to program policy?
Where the situation causes sufficient discomfort to have a negative impact on the conduct of the program, the coordinator or a leader should:
- gently but firmly explain the position fully and discreetly, and invite cooperation for the sake of the whole program;
- encourage the adherence to program guidelines for the sake of other participants; and
- make sure that their own behaviour is in keeping with program guidelines and set an example.
It is recommended that sleeping arrangements while on a camp should not be of mixed sexes. To adequately supervise and assist participants with disabilities, leaders assisting their one-to-one may intrude on other participant’s privacy.
Sexuality can be expressed in many ways and therefore it is inappropriate to make rules. It is however important that all participants are aware of appropriate and acceptable behaviour. It may be necessary to develop some simple program rules e.g. – it is not acceptable that campers or volunteers/staff touch anyone sexually without that person’s consent; it is not acceptable that campers or volunteers/staff stare at others in a sexualised way or a way that makes others feel uncomfortable, it is not acceptable for campers to masturbate, unless in a private room.
Leaders through their behaviour and interaction with participants and other leaders should show a balanced view of sexuality and relationships with others. The sport or active recreation program experience should be a positive one and help young people to understand quality human relationships.
Further information – relating to specialised sexual support needs for people with disabilities refer to Family Planning Victoria Disability Health support – www.fpv.org.au