Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?

Sexual abuse

Kate watched the kids climb the play structure in the late autumn sunshine. It was good to see Michael laughing again and joining in the games. Her heart went out to him. The last year had been so difficult. When he had first come to her pre-school daycare, she had thought of Michael as shy and quiet. However, after a while, she had started to wonder if something was going on. Little remarks he had made suggested he knew more about sex than most kids his age. When some of the children had told her that Michael was touching their private parts, she had started to worry. But when Michael also complained that it hurt to go to the bathroom, she had quickly put two and two together. Kate had known right away that she had a duty to report the situation, even if she was worried about where it might all lead. What would it mean for Michael? And for his family? Even for her business? In the end, the authorities had discovered Michael's uncle had sexually abused both Michael and his older brother. The investigation was hard for the family and for everyone involved. But the children were safe now and receiving counselling. She feels a lot of hope for Michael. She believes that he will learn to feel good about himself again and build a new sense of trust.

What does it look like?

All sexual contact with anyone without consent is a crime called sexual assault. This includes sexual touching.

The Criminal Code contains many offences that protect children from sexual abuse, which happens when a person takes advantage of a child for sexual purposes. It does not always involve physical contact with a child. For example, it could happen when an adult invites a child to touch herself or himself sexually or attempts to lure a child over the Internet for sexual purposes.

Sexual contact between an adult and a child under 16 is a crime. In Canada, the general age of consent to sexual activity is 16 years, but there are some exceptions if the other person is close in age to the child. For more information on the age of consent and teenage relationships, visit the Department of Justice links found in "Who Can Help?" at the back of this booklet. The age of consent is 18 years in some circumstances, for example, where the sexual activity takes place in a relationship of trust, dependency or authority or where the relationship is exploitative of the child. A person of authority or trust could be a parent, step-parent, grandparent, older sibling, teacher or coach.

What can I do?

If you know a child who is being sexually abused, report it to the police immediately. In an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Teach your children about personal safety and how they can stay safe. For more information, please see "Who Can Help?" at the back of this booklet.

Every province and territory has a law that says that any person who believes a child is being abused must report it. You will not get in trouble for making the report if you have reason to believe a child is being abused, even if it turns out you were wrong.

If you have questions about how to recognize child sexual abuse, here are some things you can do: