ESPACE organizations privilege the Feminist analysis of the violence. Feminist analysis also establishes links between abuses committed against children and those committed against women by recognizing that any assault committed against children are acts of domination, oppression enforced by a person that is in a position of power, authority towards the child.

Violence against children is the expression of an abuse of power by an adult over a child or even by a child over a more vulnerable one. This is why our analysis questions the inequalities of power between individuals, particularly between adults and children, and our approach aims to empower children, adults and their milieus.

Our status as adults gives us power over children. This power is part of our responsibility towards children to offer them structure and guidance, transmit values, and provide affection, etc. This power is therefore not negative in itself. It depends on how we use it. What is important is that we use it correctly in the interest of the child. The problem arises when we use our power in a way that does not contribute to the child’s well-being, and hurts him or her rather than raising or enhancing their self-esteem.

Factors of vulnerability

Three important factors make children vulnerable to violence: their lack of information, their dependance on adults and their social isolation. The CAP-ESPACE program propose ways to counter these vulnerability factors.

Lack of information

Children generally have little or misleading information about assaults and even less about their rights and resources than can help them. Adults are often uncomfortable with the subject, or they do not want to scare the child; they may themselves be misinformed and transmit information that is incomplete, erroneous or based on stereotypes. For example, they only talk about the ‘stranger danger’, when in reality child abusers are often part of the child’s entourage.


As a result, and unfortunately, the more children lack information and strategies for facing this reality, the more they are vulnerable.


To counter their lack of information :

  • Provide children with information that will help them identify and recognize violence and how to deal with it.
  • Foster adults’ awareness of this problem, and equip them to identify violence and to handle disclosures.
  • Inform children about their three essential rights, to feel: SAFE: feeling good and secure; STRONG: inner strength in every person, their courage, determination, self-confidence, etc.; FREE: the possibility to make choices for oneself, to act without constraints in certain situations.


It is natural for children to depend on adults to respond to their emotional, psychological, physical and economic needs (to be fed, educated, loved and socialized). This dependence should incite adults to be protective toward children; but in some cases the result is an abuse of power.


To counter dependence on adults

  • Inform children of their rights — help them to identify and define their personal rights.
  • Provide them with ways to deal with danger.
  • Develop their assertiveness (saying no) – build their confidence in their own abilities.
  • Develop their ability to use critical judgement rather than asking for blind obedience.



Social Isolation

Being unaware of the resources available to them and of their rights, children remain isolated and don’t know how to seek help from a worker in their daycare centre or school, or how to file a complaint with the police, or contact their CLSC or Youth Protection. The situation is even more alarming for children that are victims of violence because the aggressor has most likely told them to keep it a secret.


To counter social isolation

  • Develop peer support between children and with adults.
  • Ensure that adults and children are aware of the resources available to them.
  • Help children identify adults that they trust in their entourage.


Using one’s authority or power to put down, manipulate or control a girl or boy through words or actions that cause pain ou fear, or humiliate, is an abuse of power. This person is subjecting the child to violence. This violence can take different forms.

Verbal abuse

« You’ll always be good for nothing ! »

Anything said that humiliates or insults a person. This can take the form of demeaning comments, insults, threats, sarcasm, mocking, continuously forbidding, harassing with continuous orders, yelling and screaming, endless criticism, malicious insinuations.


Psychological violence is any attitude, words or behaviour intended to show contempt for someone and diminish their self-esteem, or undermine their self-confidence. It can take the form of rejection, terrorizing, isolating, belittling, exposing to conjugal violence, indifference or exploitation.


Any act ranging from an attack on a person’s physical integrity to putting their life in danger. Beating, biting, burning, wounding, choking, hitting, shoving, throwing to the ground, shaking violently, confining and tying up are all forms of physical violence.


Negligence is when parents or other caretakers of a child do not ensure the basic conditions essential for the child’s emotional, psychological and physical development. It can mean caring for a child in an inadequate or dangerous way. Negligence is characterized by the absence or lack of gestures essential to a child’s development, by a chronic lack of care with regard to health, hygiene, nutrition, education, supervision, a lack of attention or affection.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is an act that is sexual in nature, with or without physical contact, committed by an individual without the consent of the victim,  in some cases, especially when children are involved, through emotional manipulation or blackmail. It can take various forms – rape with or without penetration, sexual fondling, sexual contact, incest, prostitution, juvenile pornography, pedophilia, sexual harassment, exhibitionism, voyeurism, etc. – it is an act of power and domination of a criminal nature.

Just like adult victims, most […] child victims of sexual assault are female (1/3 girls and 1/6 boys)¹ and know the perpetrator (85%)², since sexual assault is often committed […]by a family member, an authority figure or a person trusted by the child³.

74% of sexual assaults committed on children from 0 to 17 years of age take place in a private residence, either at the victim’s or perpetrator’s residence4 .

Girls are more often victims of sexual assault by someone within the family, while boy victims are more often assaulted by someone from outside the family5.

In 98% of sexual assaults, the aggressor is male6 and more than half of them started committing sexual assaults in their youth.

  1. Orientations gouvernementales en matière d’agression sexuelle, Gouvernement du Québec, 2001, p.30
  2. Idem, p.31 et 33
  3. Idem, p.33
  4. Statistiques 2006 sur les agressions sexuelles au Québec, Ministère de la Sécurité publique, décembre 2007
  5. Orientations gouvernementales en matière d’agression sexuelle, Gouvernement du Québec, 2001, p.33
  6. Orientations gouvernementales en matière d’agression sexuelle, Gouvernement du Québec, 2001, p.3

How to Know…

If you have any doubts, whether about your child or a child in your life, you can contact an ESPACE organization for support

It is important to practice prevention, but it is also important to recognize the signs that may indicate that a child is a victim of violence. Marks and injuries can be signs of physical violence. But for children who are victims of verbal, psychological or sexual abuse, the signs are not necessarily visible.  So you have the to learn to  detect signs, verify your suspicious ans help your child open up.

Sudden and unusual changes in your child’s behavior are often an indication that something is wrong. Some clues can identify a situation of stress in a child: sudden anger, fatigue, nightmares, aggression, withdrawal, start to wet his bed, to suck his thumb, etc.

It is role as adult to try to find out what is going on and to offer your asistance.  Most of the time the stress is caused by a new situation: moving, starting school, birth of sister or a brother),etc. or a difficult period : school exams, divorce, loss of a loved one, arguments or bickering, etc. But, the reason for the stress could also be caused by the fact that they are being bullied.

Verify your suspicions, help child open up

When child confides to you, certain problems may seem relatively minor. Others will appear more serious. Remember that, regardless of the problem, from the child’s point of view the situation is signifiant. Therefore, you should always pay attention, helping child to the best of your attention.

Some tips to guide and help the child:

In a quiet and discret place, listen the child;

  • Listening to the child and believing in them, without passing judgement;
  • Control your emotion. If you can, stay calm. This will keep the child calm and help not to dramatize the situation. If you can’t control your emotion: Reasure the child that it is the incident that has happened to him or her whish is responsible for what you are feeling
  • Reassure the child by telling him, for example: ” I think it’s great that you are talking to me about this; it’s the right thing to go and it takes a lot of courage on your part. ” and ” What is happening to you is not your fault. “
  • Encourage child to express his or her emotions, without imposing yours;
  • Ask how you can help and what ideas child has to solve the problem: you give control of the situation back to child, you make the child feel that his ou her opinion is important ;
  • Let the child recount, in their words, their version of the fact from beginning to end. Ask simple, open questions: who, what, when, where.
  • Respect the child pace.  As trust builds, you will learn more;
  • Whatever you do, don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • If you think it is appropriate to seek help, tell the child that you will ask another person to help you.
  • You can be proud. Listening to the child and believing in them, without passing judgement, is already doing a lot for them.

When the child confides

If you can help child…

If child has choosen to confide in you, it is because there is an atmosphere of trust. Rest assured that to this point you have already done a lot for her or him.

  • Let the child recount, in their words, their version of the fact from beginning to end. Ask simple, open questions: who, what, when, where.
  • Respect the child pace.  As trust builds, you will learn more;
  • Whatever you do, don’t make promises you can’t keep. Bear in mind that there are not a magic or instant solutions.

A child victim of sexual assault, on average, spoke to 7 adults before receiving help …

If the problem is easy to resolve

  • Work out an action plan with the child (why not write it out or draw it?).
  • Lend the child your support throughout the process.


If the problem is more complex

  • Determine if the child is safe. Do you have considerable or little time in which to act?
  • If the child is in a dangerous situation, explain all the steps to come; explain that other people may possibly need to become involved. It is a difficult time. Often the child wants the abuse to stop but doesn’t want anything bad to happen to the perpetrator or is afraid of the consequences.
  • During this perio children need support and comfort from those close to them.

If you don’t can help further

You may not feel comfortable or capable of continuing the process.  The child needs to know that you will not abandon her or him. It is important that the child knows that you will ensure the help is provided, if not directly by you, the by someone else.

  • See if the child can identify other adults to confide in, and who will be able to help.
  • Ensure that the child continues the process and offer to accompagny her ou him, if the child so desires.
  • Be sure to hook the child up with the identified person.
  • Ressources are available, call to support you.

With your daily actions, you can give your child a good parts of the baggage that will allow them to face the different forms of violence that can occur in their life. Doing prevention is helping child to their self confidence, autonomy, strength, and affirmation. Prevention reduces  child’s vulnerability towards violence ans bulying.



Talking with them about their rights ans their responsibility to respect the rights of others ;

Taking their experiences and their feelings seriously ;

Believing in their abilities. This shows that you trust them ;

Focusing on their strengths and what they can do themselves to try and solve the problem.

Playing! The ” What would you do il… ” game

  • Someone from the neighbourhood would offer you 20$ for you to help them carry grocery bags in their kitchen?
  • You wold get lost in a public place ?
  • Every day, another kid would shout names at your fried to humiliate him ?

The games revolving around prevention are an excellent way to help the child to develop their self confidence and ability to act to insure their own safety ! Check out other games in Pratical Guide for parents.

The child will understant that it is important to:

  • Trust their intuition ;
  • Say NO or yell ;
  • Ask other children for help ;
  • Talk to a trusted adult ;
  • Escape il necessary.

Try to imagine what your child wants to hear…

« I think it’s great that you talked to me about it ant it was very brave of you to do so. »

« You have the right to feel safe everywhere and all times. »

« Do you have any ideas on how to solve the problem? How can I help you? »

« I love you and I always will. »

Successful way of doing things

Choose a time where you will have the full attention of the child (in the car, taking a walk, etc.) ;

Take advantage of daily situations ti talk to the child, for eample, about good and bad secrets, about the kind of touches that makes them feel good or not ;

Start with short and simple information, adapted to the chlid’s age, by stressing on the solutions instead of the dangers or fear.

Despite your concerns…

avoid harassing the child with your questions ;

build a reassuring atmosphere ;

show openness. Avoid taking chrge of everything and imposing your solutions.

Have trust in your child: most of the times their ideas may help guide you.. and even surprise you!

Positive discipline is all the actions and words used on a daily basis to educate and guide children while creating a predictable environment and relationships based on trust and respect. Thus, positive discipline helps develop self-esteem and affirmation. Affirmative children are less vulnerable to violence.



The 5 « Cs ». Establish rules that are :

Clear and comforting: Easy for children to understand, they convey the values that you wish to pass on, for example, self-respect, respect for others and of the environment, development of healthy lifestyles, etc.

 Concrete and realistic: They reflect expected behavior. They are formulated in a positive way. For example, instead of saying « Stop screaming », say « Let’s talk softly. »

 Consistent and predictable: They do not fluctuate according to the adult’s mood and are limited in number, because children aged 6 to 12 years old can only integrate and apply five to six rules at a time

Coherent: It is essential that adults practice what they preach, demonstrating by example. For example, if I expect my child to make his or her bed in the morning; I have to make mine!

Consequences that are logical: Consequences are ways to learn and grow. For children to learn to assume the consequences for their actions, there should be a logical relationship between the behaviour deemed inappropriate and the consequence. Remember that consequences are meant to teach, and learning does not have to be painful.

Offer choices

Encourage children’s active participation by offering them simple choices. This gives them a sense of freedom with regard to activities needed for a healthy lifestyle. For example: When it’s time to get washed, ask them if they prefer a shower or a bath; When you are enrolling them in a new activity, let them choose the one they prefer.


Let them figure things out on their own

In some cases, children learn better if they are left to their own devices. For example, if a child refuses to wear mittens to go outside, let her/him go without mittens for a few minutes. He or she will get cold and realize that it is better to wear mittens. Of course, you must ensure the child’s safety.

Congratulate without exaggerating

Congratulating is important in situations that represented a challenge for a child. If children are complimented all the time for things that they have known how to do for a long time, it will not have the desired effect. However, praising consistency and their efforts in order to encourage a child to continue on the right path is sometimes necessary and appropriate.

Emphasize good behavior

Building on strengths and successes is more efficient than trying to correct mistakes and failures. However, we sometimes forget to emphasize and appreciate behaviours that we would like repeated, insisting instead on what bothers us. A child may repeat a behaviour simply to get our attention. Stop paying too much attention to unwanted behaviours, and put the emphasis on desirable behaviours by regularly congratulating and smiling. This communicates a clear and constructive message

How to stop paying too much attention to unwanted behaviour? By asking these two questions:

  • Is the behaviour dangerous (for the child or for others)?
  • Will the behaviour have a significant impact in his or her life or on the family’s?

If the answer to both these questions is no, you can ignore the behaviour. If the answer to one or both of these questions is yes, it is better to intervene.

Describe the behaviour and not the child

It is easier for children, and adults as well, to do better if they are presented with specifics such as:

Telling the child what he or she did wrong or was inappropriate, with compassion if necessary;

Telling them what you expect, repeating it often if needed;

Share your feelings with the child, if necessary.

For example:

¨ When you scream in my ear, I don’t like it. I want you to speak softly to me. ¨

¨ When you don’t tell me where you are, I worry. I want you to call me before going over to a friend’s house after school. ¨

When the situation is too much for me

When my anger gets the better of me, I can use the “3 Bs”.

  • Back away: I am angry, I am aware of it and I back away.
  • Breath: I think about it and find an acceptable way to express my anger.
  • Behave better: I am calm, I can talk about it and find solutions.

MERCI! Votre don permet de créer de nouveaux outils de prévention et de faire en sorte que toujours plus d’enfants puissent vivre une enfance en sécurité et sans violence!

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