Dealing with Harassment and Abuse
As a parent, coach, volunteer or teacher, part
of supporting a child's involvement in sport and
recreation activities includes ensuring their
safety while they're having fun. We all have a
responsibility to make sure children are
protected from abusive situations. The
information on this page, while originally
written for parents, can also be useful to
others who work with children.
While there are differing degrees of harassment
and abuse, both provide serious setbacks to a
child's enjoyment of, and participation in, sport
and recreation activities.
Abuse is any action, physical or verbal, which
exploits or potentially harms or damages a child's
physical, emotional or psychological health. When a
child is abused, he or she often experiences abuse
by people older than them, usually by people they
know and trust.
Harassment and Abuse Can
Take Many Forms
Physical – where a child is intentionally
injured or made to do excessive exercises as
Sexual – where a child is exposed to, or
invited to participate in sexual contact, activity
Emotional – where a child is made fun of,
criticized, discriminated against, or put under an
unrealistic pressure to perform.
Neglect – where a child is not provided an
appropriate level of care and supervision.
If you feel that the abuse is of a sexual or
physical nature, it must be reported to a Ministry
of Children and Family Development child protection
worker or the police.
How to Recognize Abusive Situations
Look for signs that a child is not her or his
normal self and may be unusually withdrawn,
disinterested, unhappy or angry.
There are many signs, both physical and
behavioural, to suggest possible abusive situations.
Unexplained injuries, sexually explicit actions or
language beyond their age, new friendships with
older persons, or sudden changes in behaviour are
just a few examples.
You can protect a child both at home and in the
environment in which they participate. Parents
should encourage their children to talk openly about
their activities and let them know that it's okay to
tell when something isn't right. In addition, you
- be aware of your child's sport or recreation
- get involved in their activities by getting
to know their coaches, volunteers and other
- talk to your child and their coach about
what's okay behaviour and what your child wants
to get out of their activity;
- ensure their sport or recreation association
has a harassment policy and a screening process
in place for staff and volunteers;
- know how to voice your own concerns;
- listen to your child's complaint and no
matter how far-fetched it seems, check it out;
- if the problem is not sexual or physical
abuse, try to resolve it with league or club
officials before approaching other community
- have the situation corrected and, if
necessary, remove your child from the activity.
Creating a safer place for our children to play
is everyone's responsibility – coaches, volunteers,
sport and recreation organizations, local clubs and
associations, schools, all levels of government, the
participants, and parents.
Who to Call
The most important action you can take is to
contact someone when you suspect an abusive
situation. Because there are different levels of
concern and you may be unsure if harassment or abuse
is occurring, it is important that you know who to
If you have concerns about a specific situation,
try talking to someone affiliated with the sport or
recreation association, club or league, like the
coach, manager or club president. This can often
clear up a misunderstanding. However, if you feel
that the situation cannot be resolved at this level,
there are other options.
The next step is to contact the provincial sport
or recreation organization to voice your concerns.
Your local organization can give you the telephone
If you suspect child abuse of a physical or
sexual nature, report it to the police and/or local
Ministry for Children and Family Development child
protection worker listed in the blue pages of your
Helpline for Children: 310-1234
If you suspect child abuse, call this 24-hour
toll-free service that is available to anyone
concerned about child abuse.
Crimestoppers Tips Line: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)
You may leave an anonymous tip with a police
officer using this toll-free tip line.
Victim Information Line: 1-800-563-0808
Victims and immediate family members can receive
information about services available to them, and
can report crimes through this toll-free information
Against Violence Line
Youth Against Violence Line: 1-800-680-4264
Callers can receive direct assistance from police
officers in their community. To ensure
confidentiality, the system uses voicemail where
callers can leave as much information as they
choose, without their phone number being displayed.
Some documents on this Web site are in PDF format and require a PDF reader. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader Version 7.0 or the most recent version of another PDF reader, you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader by clicking on the 'Get Acrobat Reader' icon.