Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development - Sport

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 punishment.

Sexual – where a child is exposed to, or invited to participate in sexual contact, activity or behaviour.

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Look for signs that a child is not her or his normal self and may be unusually withdrawn, disinterested, unhappy or angry.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 should:

  • be aware of your child's sport or recreation environment;
  • get involved in their activities by getting to know their coaches, volunteers and other parents;
  • 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 services;
  • 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 for Help

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 contact.


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 number.

Local Authorities

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 telephone book.


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

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 line.

Youth 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.

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