What is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual misconduct that is committed against a child or adolescent by someone in a position of power or perceived authority.
Sexual abuse includes manipulating, threatening, or forcing a child into any sexual activity, which might include sexualized touching or kissing, intercourse, sex trafficking, etc. However, not all sexual abuse involves physical touch. For more information on grooming behaviours, click here.
Duty to Report
All citizens have a duty to report child abuse according to the Child and Family Services Act. The report does not require proof and can be based on personal observation, discussion with a child, assumptions, or credible second-hand information.
Duty to Report overrides professional confidentiality codes when there is reason to believe that a child may be abused or neglected.
What should I do if I think a child is being sexually abused?
If you believe a child is being neglected or abused, the Ministry of Social Services (also known as Child Protection) is the best place to start. The Saskatoon Police are also a good resource if you have questions or are unsure about making a report. Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service (or Mobile Crisis) are also a good resource for after-hour concerns. Time is of the essence in ensuring the safety of children, so don’t wait until you have all information before reporting suspected abuse.
- Ministry of Social Services Intake: 306-933-5961
- Saskatoon Police Service (non-emergency): 306-975-8300
- First Nation’s Child and Family Services: click here to find the appropriate service agency
- Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Services: 306-933-6200
DO NOT contact the alleged perpetrator, regardless of circumstances. This is likely to impede any investigation efforts.
Your report should include:
- Your name, telephone number, and relationship to the child. (This remains confidential unless your testimony is required in a court proceeding. You have the option of reporting anonymously.)
- Your concern for the child’s safety (what did you see or hear about that made you worry?)
- The child’s name, age, and gender
- Information about the alleged abuser
- Other children who may be at risk because of the situation
- Any other relevant information
What do I do if a child discloses sexual abuse to me?
Try to stay calm. Child sexual abuse is a shocking and difficult thing to hear about. Take a deep breath and remember that you know what to do.
Tell the child you believe them. The most important thing any adult can do for a child who discloses is to accept that what you’re being told is the truth. Often, a child’s biggest fear is that people won’t believe them. No matter what your relationship with the child may be, clearly demonstrate, through your calm, accepting and encouraging responses, that you do believe them.
Tell the child that this was not their fault. Reassure them that no matter what the circumstances were or how they responded, the abuse is not their fault. Responsibility for what happened belongs entirely with the offender, and it’s extremely important that the child is told this because it helps to reduce feelings of guilt, denial, and self-blame. Sexual abuse is NEVER the child’s fault.
Don’t make promises. Tell the child that you’re going to get them some help with this problem, but don’t make promises that you may not be able to keep. You don’t know how the authorities will respond to the report, you don’t know how the child’s parents or other family members will respond, nor do you know what will happen to the offender.
Don’t pry for more details about the abuse, as this can further traumatize the child and compromise the criminal investigation.
Reassure the child that they’ve done nothing wrong by telling you, and that you’ll do what you can to help.
Will anyone find out that I made a report?
A person reporting suspected neglect or abuse is not required to provide their name, although the social worker/police officer may ask for it in case they have more questions.
If requested, the social worker/police officer will not disclose the name of the individual who made the report.
In the event that proceedings move to trial, if you have provided your name, you may be required to come to court. The social worker/police officer will have more information.
Even if you are wrong, there are no legal consequences for a report made in good faith.
For more information for parents and caregivers:
Prevention Work With Your Child (For Parents) (booklet, SSAIC)
Parenting a Child that has been Sexually Abused (For Parents) (booklet, SSAIC)