Recognize Child Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse It is Your Business
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What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is anything that intentionally endangers the development, security or survival of a child; the act of emotionally, sexually or physically harming a child.

Types of Abuse:

    • Physical Abuse: the intentional use of force on any part of a child’s body that results in serious injuries.

    • Sexual Abuse: the improper exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour.

    • Emotional Abuse: anything that causes serious mental or emotional harm to a child

    • Neglect: Neglect is any lack of care that causes serious harm to a child’s development or endangers the child in any way

    • Exposure to Domestic Violence: being witness to violent behaviour between family members

How to Recognize Child Abuse From a Distance

Identifying abuse can be difficult to detect on messaging apps, phone calls or video conferences. Therefore, we must be extremely vigilant at looking for signs of potential abuse or neglect. Signs like the ones below MAY signal the presence of child abuse:

    •  Check in on those that were on your radar before, make phone calls, connect through video chat. Inability to connect with child (without reason) may be cause for concern

    • If connected on social media, notice if they are sending/posting concerning messages; writing about negative experiences

    • Pictures, images or being able to see unexplained bruises or markings on the child

    • When talking to them on the phone or through video, watch for indicators of Domestic Violence; aggression, shouting, loud noises in the background of items being thrown and broken

    • Notice changes in mental health; shows anxiety, depression fear, suicidal ideation, withdrawn

Recognize Child Abuse
Child Abuse Warning Signs

When checking in with parents, be aware of warning signs that MAY indicate they are at risk of maltreating their child and may need support:

    • Shows little concern for their child

    • Sees child as completely bad, worthless, or a burden

    • Appears indifferent or uninterested toward the child

    • Seems unconcerned or depressed

    • Behaves unreasonably or in a bizarre manner

    • Abusing drugs or alcohol

    • Frequently blames, belittles, or berates child

We must work together to continue to provide the right types of support to vulnerable children and their families and remain alert to any indicator’s children may be unsafe at home.

*Information provided by Luna Child and Youth Advocacy Centre

How to Respond to a Disclosure

When a child or youth chooses to tell you something is happening to them it means they trust you and have identified you as a safe person to talk to. It is important to prepare ourselves and know how to react when hearing their story. How you react will have an impact on them and it’s crucial to know how to respond and what action needs to be taken. Read through the steps below to prepare and know how to help a child or youth in need when they come to you.

    • Remain Calm & Be Strong: Do not let the child see or sense any negative emotions or reactions, this may traumatize them.

    • Be An Active Listener: Thank the child for sharing. Document all information you know for the investigation without seeking additional details from the child.

    • Let The Child Lead: Do not fill in any blanks or ask probing and leading questions. Let the child explain in their own words.

    • Assure The Child: Reassure that the child is not at fault and will be kept safe by trusted adults. Don’t promise outcomes, i.e. “the offender is going to jail”

    • Practice Self-Care: Receiving information regarding child abuse can be difficult. Recognize when you are in need of assistance yourself following a disclosure.

    • Report To Authorities: Take a deep breath and take action.

 *Information provided by the Zebra Child Protection Centre

How to Let a Child Lead

When a child or youth has identified you as a safe person to talk to it is important to prepare ourselves and know how to have the conversation when hearing their story. Letting a child lead in this conversation is very important when you are receiving a disclosure as this helps us to avoid asking leading questions and ensures the child has the opportunity to explain what happened in their own words.

A leading question is one where we are either suggesting the answer in the question itself or attempting to guide the person to an answer we believe they are going to give. 

Instead, concentrate on feelings and how to help the child or youth in the now. If you must ask questions, ask open ended ones for example, “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” It is important to document the exact words of the child’s disclosure to ensure the information gathered is from their own words.

Duty To Report

Under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, anyone who has reasonable and probable grounds to believe a child is being sexually, physically, emotionally abused or neglected has a legal obligation to file a report. You may have witnessed something concerning or maybe the child has given subtle hints or clues. The best case scenario is you’re wrong. Worst case scenario is leaving the child to suffer in silence. By speaking out against child abuse, you can lend your voice to children and youth who haven’t yet found theirs. Here are six important things to remember when reporting child abuse:

    • Each child display “signs” of abuse differently: Every child is unique and responds to trauma in different ways. Although there is no diagnostic tool, a drastic and prolonged change in a child’s typical pattern of behaviour may be cause for concern.

    • Reports can be made anonymously: If you’re worried you may be identified as a source, a report can be made anonymously through Crime Stoppers or the Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-387-5437 ) You may choose to report the abuse through a local police agency, but making a report through your local police agency cannot guarantee anonymity. 

    • Online child exploitation must be reported too: Adults are also obligated to report the online exploitation of children and any material that depicts abuse towards children. Reporting online exploitation can be done anonymously and at the click of a button through

    • Provide as much detail as possible: Providing as much detail as possible will help investigators do their jobs quickly and successfully. Is the child in immediate danger? How do you know the child? When did you first notice something wasn’t right? What have you seen or heard? Where is the child now?

    • It’s our job to uncover the truth: Trust in the expertise of a team of law enforcement agencies, medical professionals, specialized assessors and child advocates to confirm if abuse is happening. We will know the difference between a malicious report and a genuine report of child abuse. We will not be angry at you for a report that turns out to be untrue. In fact, we thank you for helping us protect children and youth in our community.

    • The child and their non-offending caregivers will be supported: Child Advocacy Centres throughout the country exist solely to act in the best interests of a child throughout the process of disclosure, investigation, prosecution and healing. If your report is investigated, rest assured the child is now safe, supported, believed and on the path towards recovery.

I believe you

Child abuse is everyone’s business. Ready to make a report? Here are some numbers you’ll need to know:

Your local police or RCMP detachment

Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-387-5437 (KIDS)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or Text CONNECT to 686868 

Crime Stoppers: 1-800-222-8477

Online Exploitation:

*Information provided by the Zebra Child Protection Centre

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