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Information for Professionals

Living with, leaving or recovering from sexual or domestic violence takes tremendous courage.

Many survivors do not talk about their experiences for years. The effects of sexual violence and violence in intimate relationships include shame, fear, self-blame and a profound sense of helplessness. Statistically, violence is most often perpetrated by someone who is known to the victim. This may be a person the victim has lived with for many years, cooperated with, or with whom she has developed a life and attachment to. In addition, many women – especially those with small children, no independent income, and recent newcomers to Canada – remain in volatile situations because they have no money and no place to go.

Many survivors don’t identify their experiences as sexual assault. Many do not know that it’s against the law. A woman or man chooses what they will disclose – and to whom – based on whom they feels safest with.

You may be:

  • A religious leader
  • A community or social service worker
  • An interpreter
  • A lawyer or community legal worker
  • A medical professional
  • A teacher
  • An Ontario Works worker


When screening for abuse, ask about any violence in a direct but compassionate way.

  • “How are things at home?”
  • “Are you in a relationship with someone who threatens to or has hurt you in any way?”
  • “Is someone hurting you at home?”
  • “Are you worried about your children’s safety?
  • Physical injuries
  • Depression or anxiety
  • The woman is fearful of her partner
  • The woman may be isolated from family and friends
  • She may not be allowed outside the home or to take phone calls
  • She may be wary of talking about her home life

Physical safety is the first priority.  If you believe she is in danger, tell her.  Help her create a safety plan

  • Refer to the DOs and DON’Ts on the safe response page.
  • Respect her confidentiality.
  • Refer her to an agency or crisis line that can assist her further.

You should know that children who witness the abuse of their mothers are considered to be at risk of suffering harm. Many children who witness their mother’s abuse are often abused themselves. Throughout the 1990s, many children living in abusive homes were injured, traumatized or even killed. This caused reform to the Child & Family Services Act, which is a body of Canadian laws meant to protect children.

Today by law – whether you are a teacher, social worker, neighbor or a parent of another child – if you have reasonable grounds to suspect a child is being harmed, you must report to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). There are many things that can be considered harmful.

Specifically, you must call the CAS if:

  • A child has disclosed to you that he/she is being physically, sexually or emotionally abused
  • A woman discloses to you that she is being physically or sexually abused in the presence of her children
  • A woman discloses to you that her partner abuses her and there are children in the home
  • You suspect a child is being deprived of his/her basic needs at home
  • You suspect a child is at immediate risk of abuse and his/her parents are not willing or able to protect him/her

The CAS operates in Ontario to ascertain the safety of vulnerable children. Only in extreme circumstances are children removed from the family home.

  • Become part of the solution.
  • Explore your own neighbourhood and find out what services are available and accessible.
  • Work towards increasing accessibility.
  • Listen to and take seriously any person who says she is being abused.
  • Pay attention to any situation that might be abusive and be available to listen and act if your help is required.
  • If you know of someone who is being abused, find a safe way to remove her from the situation she finds dangerous.
  • Offer whatever support she needs, whether it be listening, helping with childcare, providing transportation, or other assistance.