Child abuse is more common than people think. There are many different kinds of abuse. People often believe that if a child does not have physical injuries, they have not been abused.
It is commonly believed that children are most often abused by strangers. This is why education about abuse has focused on stranger danger. Children can be harmed by strangers; however, it is more likely that a child will be abused by the people that they know. This can include family, family friends, and other trusted adults in the child’s life.
Types of Child Abuse
Physical: Physical abuse means using physical violence against a child. Some examples of physical abuse include slapping, biting, burning, punching, pushing, throwing, grabbing, and hurting the head, brain and neck (Abusive Head Trauma). Physical abuse can cause injuries, like bruising or broken bones.
Emotional: Emotional abuse refers to using words, attitudes, or behaviours to humiliate, embarrass, or hurt a child. Some examples of emotional abuse include making fun of, mocking, or calling a child names.
Sexual: Sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity involving a child. Sexual activity does not have to include penetration (putting the penis into the vagina or anus [bum]) to be abusive. Some examples of sexual abuse include sexual touching and kissing, forced sexual acts, forcing a child to watch sex between adults (in person or through pornography), making child pornography, and sex trafficking.
Neglect: Neglect refers to not meeting a child’s needs. This can include:
- Emotional neglect: not providing love and care
- Physical neglect: not providing physical supplies like clothes, toothbrush, and soap
- Educational neglect: not allowing the child to attend school
- Medical neglect: not providing a child with needed medical care
Witnessing Domestic Violence or Marital Discord: Witnessing domestic violence and marital discord refers to a child seeing, hearing, or dealing with the effects of domestic violence. The child may not be physically harmed by this abuse. They can be indirectly harmed, for example, by being made to lie about the reason for a parent’s injuries.
Signs of Abuse
Sometimes it is easy to notice the signs of abuse.
However, it can also sometimes be difficult to notice signs of abuse. Sometimes signs of abuse and normal development can be confused.
Below are some signs of abuse:
- Not interested in activities the child used to like
- Changes in behaviour, e.g., more aggressive or hyperactive
- Going backwards in development, e.g., not being able to use the potty when they have already been potty trained
- Developing new and unusual fears
- Lack of parent supervision
- Lack of parent attention
- Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures, or burns; young babies are not able to injure themselves until they begin to move
- Injuries that don’t match the explanation given by parent or child
- Untreated medical or dental problems
- Sexual behaviour or knowledge that is inappropriate for the child’s age
- Trouble walking or sitting, or pain in the groin area
- Child acts out abuse they have experienced and may abuse other children
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches
- Seeking stranger’s affection
- Poor growth or weight gain
- Poor hygiene
- Lack of clothing or supplies
Impacts of Child Abuse
There are many impacts of child abuse. Some of these you can see right away, like bruises or aggressive behaviour.
Some of the impacts occur over time. Ongoing abuse causes a constant activation of the child’s stress response system. This constant activation results in physical, emotional, and behavioural problems in childhood and adulthood.
Abuse can also harm the child’s attachment relationships and may make home an unsafe place to be.
Reporting Child Abuse in Saskatchewan
The Saskatchewan Child Abuse Protocol states that it is everyone’s responsibility to report child abuse to social services or the police (local or RCMP). If you make a report, it is not up to you to prove the abuse is happening. Child protective services, the police, and other specialists will start to investigate and make that decision.
It is important not to assume that someone else has already reported the situation. If you suspect abuse, you should report. This ensures that reports are made and can add information to a child’s file.
Maltreatment means treating a child roughly, cruelly, or violently.
Witnessing violence means seeing or hearing violence occur in your home or community. Witnessing violence can also mean feeling the effects of violence even if you didn’t see or hear it.
Abusive Head Trauma
Sometimes parents shake their child out of frustration. Usually this happens when the child is crying and cannot be soothed. Shaking a baby can cause injuries to the brain and neck. It can also cause the baby to die. For more information, please click here.
Pornography is media that provides descriptions or images of sexual body parts (like the penis or vagina) or sexual acts. Pornography can be in printed, audio, or video form. Showing pornography to children or using children in the making of pornography is abusive.
Sex trafficking refers to selling sex for money or some other reward. With children, this can include the making of pornography and using children sexually to make money.
Stress Response System
The stress response system is instinctual; not under your control. It exists to keep us safe. This system starts when we come in contact with something that is new, threatening, uncontrollable, or unpredictable. For more information about children’s reactions to stress, please click here.
Attachment is the bond that your child will develop with you. Children of all ages can develop attachments to their caregivers.
Your child will form a secure attachment to you when you provide them with safe, loving, and consistent care.
For more information about attachment, click here.
Prevention of Child Abuse
- Introduce your child to the Kids Help Phone, 1-800-668-6868.
- Teach your child their rights.
- Teach your child to use the proper names of their body parts.
- Talk about child abuse and domestic violence openly in your community and at home.
- Teach your child the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch.
- Supervise and set boundaries around your child’s use of the Internet.
- Create a safety plan with your child so that they know who to go to if they are feeling unsafe. Help your child to understand that if they do not get the help they need from the first person they tell, to keep telling until they get the help they need.
- If you suspect child abuse, report it to social services, police, or RCMP. Understand your duty to report. You do not have to have proof of the abuse.
- Positive discipline skills helps you to find long-term solutions that develop children’s own self-discipline and their lifelong skills.
Support for Parents
- Learn about positive discipline.
- Be aware of signs of abuse (e.g., overly aggressive behaviours and inappropriate sexual behaviour).
- If you suspect that your child has been abused, call social services, RCMP, local police, or HealthLine (811).
- Before enrolling your child in a program or daycare, check that adult leaders/coaches have had a criminal records check.
- Coaches in Saskatchewan are encouraged to take a training called Respect in Sport. The purpose is to help decrease bullying and abuse in sports.
Appropriate and Inappropriate Touch
Use the bathing suit rule to teach children what appropriate and inappropriate touch is. Teach your child that no one should touch the parts of their body that their bathing suit covers unless it is a doctor or their parents helping them bathe. Inappropriate touch is any touch that makes your child feel uncomfortable.
Your child needs to know who is safe in his community. Safe people are people who you feel will not hurt your child. Talk to him about safe people. These are people he can go to if bad or uncomfortable things are happening to him. These should include people who are part of your family and people who aren’t.
Positive discipline skills helps you to find long-term solutions that develop children’s own self-discipline and their lifelong skills. Positive discipline is not about punishment. It is about teaching non-violence, empathy, self-respect, human rights, and respect for others. For more information,
Criminal Records Check
A criminal records check is conducted by a local police section or RCMP office. When completed, a criminal records check will provide a list of past charges that a person has been found guilty of.
Individuals working with children should also be asked to complete a Vulnerable Sector Check. This check searches for sexual offences. These remain on a person’s record even if they have received a pardon.
Prevention of Domestic Violence
- Teach your child social skills, including the importance of healthy relationships. Visit www.kidshelpphone.ca.
- Model to your child what a healthy relationship is. Your child will copy and learn from your relationship.
- If you are being abused, get help. Please refer to PATHS, Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Shelters for information.
- Learn the warning signs of domestic violence. The following video talks about some of these red flags: Domestic Violence Warning Signs.
- Be aware of the impact of domestic violence on children. The following video shows some scenes of domestic violence and messages from children who experience this form of abuse: Effects of Domestic Violence on Children.
Links to Further Information
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Child Abuse Resource Centre
- Canadian Centre for Child Protection
- Canadian Red Cross: Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Programs
- Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime
- Ministry of Justice, Government of Saskatchewan: Child Abuse Protocol
- UNICEF Canada: The Convention on the Rights of the Child
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