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What can be done if a child is being abused?

Child abuse remains something with which society continues to struggle. Sometimes it’s hard to spot, because people are not sure of what child abuse is exactly.

Child abuse can come in many forms. It can include any form of psychological, physical, emotional, social or sexual mistreatment of a child which brings the safety, survival and well-being of the child in danger.


There are four main areas into which child abuse is often grouped: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

Some indicators that a child may be neglected are: frequent absences from school, doesn’t have proper clothing for the weather, delinquent behaviour, poor hygiene, and lack of supervision.

Indicators of emotional abuse include: habit disorders, sleep disorders, unusual fearfulness, nausea, disruptive behaviour, and bed-wetting.

Some indicators of physical abuse can include: injuries that are unexplained or not consistent with explanation, aggressive or withdrawn behaviour, various injuries on the body at different stages of healing, and being afraid to go home.

Indicators of sexual abuse include but are not limited to: self-abusive behaviour, self-mutilation, and difficulty in walking or sitting.

If I suspect a child is being abused, do I have to report it?

Yes, if you know a child has been abused, or if a child has disclosed to you that she or he is being abused in their home, you have the duty to report this abuse to the local police or child welfare agency.

Even if the child has not disclosed to you that she or he has been abused but you have a reasonable basis to believe that abuse is taking place, you have to report it.

As per the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: “Anyone who has a reasonable suspicion that a child is or may be in need of protection is required by law to report the information. People who report suspected child abuse or neglect cannot be sued unless they did so maliciously or without reasonable grounds.”

Criminal code

There is no specific provision in the code that deals with child abuse but there are quite a few offences that cover all types of child abuse, such as: failure to provide the necessities of life, assault, sexual assault, abandoning child, and criminal negligence.

If you fail to report that a child has been abused even though you knew the child was in danger, you may face penalties which vary according to province or territory.

If you are a child being abused, tell a teacher or a doctor/nurse. You can also call the Kids Help Phone. They are available every day and you can call them at any time. Their number is 1-800-668-6868.

Read more:

What is child abuse?

Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect