Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?

What is child abuse?

Jack wrapped his fingers tighter around his granddaughter's small hand as they entered the old medical centre. It took courage to make this appointment, but Jack knew they needed the social worker's help. Little Ella and her brother had come to stay with her grandparents for a few weeks over the summer. They had all looked forward to the special visit, thinking it would be great for the kids to have lots of room to run and play. But the two children seemed distant and mostly played their computer games. Ella's frequent nightmares quickly became a concern. Every loud noise seemed to make the little girl jump. Jack had set about earning Ella's trust, bit by bit. When the vacation had come to an end, she had hid in the closet and refused to leave. Through Ella's tears, Jack had learned that her parents were always fighting. Her father often pushed her mother and she in turn often threw things at him. There was lots of yelling. Ella thought it was all her fault and that if she went back something bad would happen. Jack's heart ached at the thought of his daughter and his grandchildren enduring this kind of life. He didn't like the idea of interfering, but he knew the children's safety and well-being had to come first. He hoped it wasn't too late for some counselling to help. Maybe his daughter and her husband could still turn things around and make a better home for the kids.

Child abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse. It also includes neglect, and any violence that children see or hear in their families. The person who abuses the child can be:

  • a parent
  • a brother or sister
  • another relative
  • a caregiver
  • a guardian
  • a teacher, or
  • another professional or volunteer who works with children (for example, a doctor or coach).

Abuse may take place in a child's home, or it may happen in other places, like other people's homes, schools, community centres or places of worship. Sometimes the child's parents lived abuse as a child, such as in the residential schools many Indigenous peoples were forced to attend. Abuse that someone lived as a child, whether it happened in their home or outside of it, may change the way they parent their own children as abuse is oen a learned behaviour.

This booklet deals with child abuse in the family.

In Canada, there are federal, provincial and territorial laws to protect children from abuse. Some types of abuse are crimes and are listed in the Criminal Code,* which is a federal law. Federal laws are laws that apply across Canada.

Even if the abuse is not a crime under the Criminal Code, provincial and territorial laws could be used to stop the abuse.

Child abuse can cause long-term health problems.

Every child deserves protection from abuse.

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