- Why is Commit to Kids needed?
According to research, 1 in 10 Canadians reported being sexually victimized before they turned 18.i In the majority of child sexual abuse cases, the offender was known to the child.ii
Child-serving organizations need to better understand the issue of sexual abuse beyond common duty to report training. Building employees’/volunteers’ awareness of child sexual abuse and how they can help mitigate this risk is the first step in protecting children in your care.
- What is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse includes a wide range of behaviours and situations — offences can range from one-time occurrences to multiple experiences; from one offender to multiple offenders; with or without the use of violence. Offences can also vary from non-contact sexual offences, such as voyeurism or exposing a child to pornography, to hands-on sexual offences.
For more in-depth material, download our free resource, Child Sexual Abuse: It is Your Business.
- Who sexually abuses children?
Individuals who sexually abuse children usually know their victims. This includes family members or someone in the child’s circle of trust (e.g., a coach, a family friend, or an educator). Offenders come from all walks of life and cannot be picked out or identified by appearance. It is essential to pay attention to behaviours and situations that present risk rather than focus on an individual’s character.
- What is grooming?
Grooming is a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child and the adults around a child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with the child. Offenders groom children in order to manipulate them into becoming a co-operating participant, reducing the likelihood of a disclosure and increasing the likelihood that the child will repeatedly return to the offender.
Grooming is really the start of the abuse process, and for many individuals who have experienced sexual abuse, the grooming was just as, if not more, damaging than the sexual contact parts of the abuse.
- Do children always tell someone about their abuse?
The most common response to child sexual abuse is silence. Children often avoid telling someone about sexual abuse because they are confused about what has happened and are afraid they won’t be believed or worry about what a disclosure may do to their life.
Disclosure is often a process rather than a one-time event. While full disclosure happens occasionally, information is typically provided bit by bit or through hints and signs. This process may span hours, weeks, months, or even years. If the process is interrupted, discouraged, or shut down, the sexual abuse may not be fully revealed until adulthood — if at all.
- Where do I report my concerns about a child being sexually abused?
When a person becomes aware that a child may be or has been abused, there is a legal and ethical responsibility to take action. The legal responsibility comes from child welfare legislation within each province and territory and may also be a duty of a person’s profession or workplace. The responsibility to report means that a person who has knowledge or information that a child is or might be at risk must report it to someone:
- If the information relates to potential abuse of a child by the child’s parent or guardian, the person must report it to child welfare or police.
- If the concern involves potential abuse by any other person, the individual should report it to the child’s parent or guardian and may also be obligated to report it to child welfare and/or police if the person is aware that the child’s parent/guardian has not or will not take action to protect the child.
Reporting information about potential child sexual abuse allows an an authority, like child welfare or police, to determine whether it is necessary to investigate, and/or allows the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s) to proactively take steps to protect their child.
- Afifi TO, MacMillan HL, Boyle M, et al. “Child abuse and mental disorders in Canada.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2014; 186(9): E324-32.
- Beaupre, Pascale and Cotter, Adam. 2014 “Police-reported sexual offences against children and youth in Canada, 2012.” Juristat. Statistics Canada.