Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for sexual purposes by an adult or adolescent. It involves exposing a child to any sexual activity or behaviour. Sexual abuse most often involves fondling and may include inviting a child to touch or be touched sexually. Other forms of sexual abuse include sexual intercourse, juvenile prostitution and sexual exploitation through child pornography. Sexual abuse is inherently emotionally abusive and is often accompanied by other forms of mistreatment. It is a betrayal of trust and an abuse of power over the child.
Child sexual abuse is a criminal offence in Canada. The Criminal Code clearly identifies those behaviours that are against the law. The Canada Evidence Act defines the forms of evidence that may be admitted in court. In recent years, both the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act have been changed to provide better protection to children. How Widespread Is the Problem?
Child sexual abuse is largely a hidden crime, so it is difficult to estimate the number of people who are sexually abused at some time during their childhood (the prevalence of child sexual abuse). Both adults and children may be reluctant to report sexual abuse for many reasons. Their reluctance may be related to the historical norm of keeping such behaviour secret because of the sense of shame associated with it. If the abuser is someone close to them in terms of kinship or other bonds, they may be deterred by the likelihood that criminal charges and penalties may be imposed.
Finally, the fact that the victims are young and dependent tends to be a major obstacle to disclosure. Research consistently reveals that, for reasons such as these, most child victims do not disclose their abuse. Even when they do, additional barriers may be encountered. For many of the same reasons that children do not report the abuse, their families may, in turn, not seek help.
Stop child sexual abuse. If you believe you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is being sexually exploited or abused, promptly report your concerns to the child welfare agency, provincial or territorial social services department or police force in your community. In all cases, the person reporting is protected from any kind of legal action, provided the report is not falsely made and motivated by malice.
Where to Go for Support Services Contact your local:
- child welfare agency
- police department
- social service agency
- mental health centre
- sexual assault centre
- transition home
- distress centre, or
- other community service organization that provides counselling to children and families.