Suspected Abuse and the Duty to Report

“Be careful of Clive.”

That was the warning to a young girl from her aunt who suspected that it might be unsafe for her to spend time alone with the man who had already been sexually abusing her for months. Her aunt did not confront the man. She did not discuss her suspicions with other family members. She did not report her concerns to the police or a child protection agency. She told the young girl to be careful, but did nothing more to ensure her safety.

This person did not fulfill her duty – the duty of an adult to protect a child – and that young girl became a survivor.

In Canada, each province and territory has a Child Protection Act* because children cannot protect themselves. According to each Act, if a person has “reasonable grounds” to suspect that a child is in need of protection that person must report the suspicion and all information to the local police or child protection agency. This responsibility extends to all adults. Even if, wrongly, we choose to believe the responsibility falls more heavily on the shoulders of anyone who performs professional or official duties involving children. Even if, in some cases – because of the nature of the job – a child may feel safer disclosing abuse to professionals such as:

  • Health care professionals including doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, and family counselors
  • Educational professionals including teachers, school principals, guidance counselors, early childhood educators (ECE), daycare staff, and youth and recreation staff
  • Religious officials including ministers, rabbis, and other members of the clergy
  • Law enforcement professionals including peace and police officers
  • Social workers
  • Lawyers

Every person has the duty to report if he or she suspects the abuse of a child. There are no exceptions.

So, what are some of the things from which a child requires protection?

  • Neglect: the failure to provide adequate care and/or supervision
  • Emotional and Psychological Abuse: revealed in children as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-destructive or aggressive behaviour, and/or delayed development
  • Physical Abuse: injury inflicted by a parent/caregiver or another person; or resulting from neglect or lack of supervision
  • Sexual Abuse: when a child is sexually molested, sexually assaulted, or sexually exploited by her or his parent/caregiver or by another person; or the parent/caregiver knows that there is a risk of sexual molestation, sexual assault, or sexual exploitation and fails to protect the child

The Child Protection Act of Ontario states that if you suspect a child requires protection, to fulfill the duty to report you must make the report directly. You cannot rely on another person to report abuse on your behalf. In fact, anyone who fails to make a report is guilty of an offence.

We know that children cannot protect themselves. The key principles of each Child Protection Act – the promotion of the best interests, protection, and well-being of children – are there to remind us of this. Therefore, if you suspect abuse, fulfill your duty: report it. You may protect a child from becoming a survivor.


* Written with excerpts from the Child and Family Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11


Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

Filing a Police Report

You have made the choice to file a report about the sexual assault or sexual abuse you have experienced.

Going forward here is some information that we believe will be helpful as you face what may be a difficult experience, especially if you have never been inside of a police station or had any previous contact with the police.

First, and most important, you have the right to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for your personal dignity and privacy1 by any and all of the individuals you interact with while filing your report.

Second, you have the right to request that the interviewing police officers and any other officials present are of the same gender2 as you (female or male), so that you feel comfortable while filing your report.

Third, your interview with the police will be recorded in three (3) ways: written notes, audio recording and video recording. Do not be intimidated by this process. The audio and video recordings are necessary to have a living account of what happened to you. These recordings may be used as evidence at a later date. At the end of your interview you may be asked to confirm your account of the incident(s) by signing a copy of the statement you have made.

If you are reporting a case of historical sexual assault or long-term sexual abuse, it is important to know that you may be asked why you waited to file a report. Do not be discouraged by this question. Remember that there is no statute of limitations for reporting a sexual assault or sexual abuse in Canada. You are filing your report now because it is the right time for you do so.

Also, if you are asked by the interviewing officer(s) to provide corroboration of this crime, it is important to know that under the Criminal Code of Canada you are not required to provide corroboration. Where an accused is charged with an offence of sexual assault or sexual abuse no corroboration is required for a conviction3.

Fourth, at the end of the interview request the case number for your records. You should also request the names and badge identification numbers of the interviewing officers. This information will be on their business cards. You will need all of this information when you make follow up inquiries about the progress of your case because you have the right to have access to information about the progress of criminal investigations4.

Finally, before you leave the police station request information for support services because you have the right to have access to information concerning services and remedies available to victims5. These services may be available through Victim Services or other agencies within your community. These agencies will either provide you with or help you to locate the emotional and psychological support services you may need as you move forward.

Below you will find the reference notes for the information that has been tagged in this posting.


Points 1,2,4,5 are taken from principles in the Victims’ Bill of Right. They are principles (1),(4),(3) and (2) respectively.

Point 3 is taken from the Criminal Code of Canada which states:

Corroboration not required under the Criminal Code of Canada 274. Where an accused is charged with an offence under section 151, 152, 153, 155, 159, 160, 170, 171, 172, 173, 212, 271, 272 or 273, no corroboration is required for a conviction and the judge shall not instruct the jury that it is unsafe to find the accused guilty in the absence of corroboration.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 274; R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 11.

The following Criminal Code offences may apply in sexual abuse situations:

  • Sexual assault (section 271)
  • Sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (section 272)
  • Aggravated sexual assault (section 273)
  • Incest (section 155)

Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide