Les organismes ESPACE privilégient l’analyse féministe de la violence. Avant d’être un problème individuel, la violence faite aux enfants est donc vue comme un problème social qui doit être considéré, entre autres, sous l’angle des rapports hiérarchiques qui s’établissent souvent entre les hommes et les femmes, entre les adultes et les enfants. La violence est définie comme un exercice abusif de pouvoir par une personne en situation de force pour contrôler par différents moyens une autre personne, et ce, dans le but de répondre à ses propres besoins et désirs, sans égard à l’autre. Le pouvoir n’est pas mauvais en soi, c’est l’abus qu’on en fait qui est problématique.

Violence is defined as an abusive exercise of power by a person in a situation of force to control by different means another person, and, in a goal to answer to their own needs and desires, without regards to the other person. Power is not a bad thing per say, it is what we do it that can become problematic.

Violence against children is the expression of an abuse of power from an adult towards a child or even from a child towards a more vulnerable one. That is why we question the power inequalities between people, particularly between adults and children, and that our approach takes aim in reinforcing children, adults and their living environments.


Our adult status naturally gives us power. This power is also and foremost a responsibility towards children in order to support and guide them, instill them values, give them affection, etc. Therefore this power is not wrong per say, it all depends on what we do with it. The important thing is to use it correctly, always keeping in mind the interest of the child. It becomes a problem when we use it to do things that do not help the well-being of the child and that brings them down instead of reinforcing their self-esteem.

Factors of vulnerability

Three important factors make childre vulnerable to violence and make them easy prey for agressors: lack of information, dependance on adults, social isolation. That why EPACE-CAP works to prevent all forms of violence against children. Doing prevention is helping your child to develop their self confidence, autonomy, strenght and affirmation.


Lack of information

Children are usually not well informed or not informed at all when it comes to child assault and they rarely know their rights and the resources available that can help them. When it comes to adults, they are often uncomfortable with the subject or they fear that they will scare the child. Or even sometimes, they know very little themselves about the phenomenon and pass on incomplete or incorrect information that can sat times be based on stereotypes. For example: telling children information only about strangers, when most of the time the perpetrators are part of their entourage…

Therefore, and unfortunately, the more children lack information and strategies to be able to face this reality, the more vulnerable they are.


To counter the lack of information:

  • Give children information that will help them to recognize violence and know how to react to it;
  • Raise awareness in adults concerning this problem and prepare them to recognize violence and receive the children’s disclosures.
  • Inform children of their three essential rights: SAFE: feeling good and secure; STRONG: inner strength in every person, courage, determination, self-confidence, etc.; FREE: the possibility to make choices for ourselves, to act without constraints in certain situations or concerning certain subjects.

Dependance towards adults

It is natural that children depend on adults in order for them to fulfill their emotional, psychological, physical and economical needs (being fed, educated, loved, learning to live in society, etc.). This dependence, related to their child condition, should bring about protection from adults. In certain cases though this brings situations of abuse…


To counter dependence towards adults :

  • Inform children of their rights – help them to identify and define their personal rights;
  • Give them the means and tools to react if faced with danger;
  • Develop self-assertion (say no) – give children self confidence in order for them to trust in their own ability;
  • Develop their ability to use their critical thinking instead of asking of them to be blindly obedient.

Social Isolation

Knowing very little or not at all about the help resources available for them, adding to that the fact that they are unaware of their rights, children find themselves isolated and ignorant of the means to which they can resort to in order to have help from professionals from their daycare or school, or even to file a complaint to the police department, communicate with their CISSS or the DYP. The situation is far more alarming to the child victim of violence since the aggressor most often than not asks the child to keep the secret in order to protect himself.


To counter social isolation :

  • Develop mutual support between children themselves and with adults;
  • Ensure that adults and children know the resources available for them within their community;
  • Bring the child to identify the trusted adults in his close circle.


Pour ESPACE, une agression c’est le non respect, la violation d’un ou de plusieurs de nos droits à la sécurité, à la force et à la liberté, qui sont des droits fondamentaux.

  • SÉCURITÉ : se sentir bien, en confiance, bref, à l’abri du danger
  • FORCE : la force dont il est question ici est moins celle associée à la puissance physique que celle se rapportant à la puissance intérieure en chaque personne, dont font partie le courage, la détermination, l’intelligence, la confiance en soi, etc.
  • LIBERTÉ : possibilité de faire des choix pour soi-même et de pouvoir agir sans contrainte.



When a person uses their authority, their power to put down, manipulate or control a girl or a boy with words or actions that hurt them or make them sad, that scare or humiliate them, that person is abuding their power. They are subjecting the child to violence and bullying.

Verbal violence

« You’re a good for nothing ! »

Anything said aimed to humiliate or insult a person. This can manifest itself by demeaning comments, forbidding continuously, harassing with orders, yelling and screaming or with insults, profanities, threats, mockery, sarcasm, criticism, unfounded insinuations.


Psychological violence

Psychological violence results in any attitude, word or behavior intended to scorn and diminish a person’s self-esteem, undermine their confidence. It can manifest itself by rejection, terror, isolation, belittlement, being exposed to domestic violence, indifference or exploitation.

Physical violence

Any act from infringement on a person’s physical integrity to putting their life in danger. Beating, biting, burning, harming, chocking, hitting, pushing, throwing to the ground or elsewhere, shaking violently, confining and tying up, are all different possible forms of physical violence.



There is negligence when parents or other adults taking care of the child, do not meet its essential needs in order for the child to develop properly emotionally, psychologically and physically. It can also be to take care of a child in an inadequate or dangerous way. Negligence distinguishes itself by the absence or lack of gestures essential to a child’s development, by a chronic lack of care on the following levels: health, body hygiene, nutrition, education, supervision, 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 or in some cases through emotional manipulation or blackmail, especially when children are involved. It can take different 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 and/or control 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 their 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 old take place in a private residence, either at the victim’s or perpetrator’s residence4.

Girls are more often victims of sexual assault within the family, while for boy victims, sexual assaults comes from outside the family5.

In 98% of sexual assault, 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


It is centainly important to do prevention, but just as important to recognize the digns that might indicate a child is a possible victim of violence. Bruises and injuries can be signs of physical abuse. But for childre who are vistims of verbal, psuchological ou sexual violence, there are not necessarily visible traces.

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

How to know…

Sudden changes in your child’s behavior are often a sign that something is wrong: sudden anger, lost his appetite, nightnares, tired, etc.

Most the time, that stress is caused by a new situation like a move, starting school, the birth of a sister or brother ou difficult events like exams, a divorce, the loss of a loved one, disputes ou arguments. But, it is possible that the chid’s stress is caused by something else: the child might be a victim of violence.

When chil confides in you, some problems might seem minor. Others may appear more serious. However, for the child, no matter the problem, what they went through is important. You need to give each disclosure the necessary attention by helping your child the best that you can.

Help child open up

In a quiet, discrete place, take the time to listen and support them;

  • Listen and believe what they are telling you, without passing judgement ;
  • Try to copntrol your reactions as much as possible. If you can, stay calm. This will help keep child calm. If you can’t control your emotions ; reassure child that what is upsetting you is what happened to them, and that you are not angry with them ;
  • Reassure the child ;
  • Create an atmosphere that will build trust and encourage your child to express their emotions without suggesting yours ;
  • Ask your child their ideas to solve the problem and how you can help. That way, you are empowering your child towards this situation and making them feel like their opinion is important ;
  • Let the child tell, in their own words, their version of the facts, from beginning to end. Ask simple and open-ended questions, which means question starting with who, what, where ; this will help them to elaborate further ;
  • Respect their pace. As trust grows, you will learn more of their story ;
  • Don’t make any promises that you cannot keep.
  • If you need help ; explain all the steps that will follow, tell the child that is possible that other people might need to get involved.

To help

If the problem is easy to solve…

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


If the problem is more complex

  • Determine if the child is safe. Do you have considerable or limited time ans which to act ?
  • If the child is in danger, explain all steps that will follow; tell the child that is possible that other people mmight need to get involved. This is a difficult time: often the child wants the violence to stop, but doesn’t want to cause trouble for the abuser or might be afraid of the consequences...
  • During this difficult time, the child will need to be surrounded by people who will provide support ans comfort.

Listening to the child and believing in them, without passing judgement, is already doing a lot for them. 


If you can no longer help…

The situation might be difficult to resolve. You might not feel comfortable continuing. If so, it is important that the child know that you will not abandon him or her. Make it clear that you will get them all the help they need, if not from you, then from someone help.

  • Ask if there are any other adults that they can confide in who can help.
  • Make sure that the child continues to work toward a solution, and offer to accompany them if that’s what they want.
  • Be sure to hook the child with the other person they chose.
  • The are ressources available, for you when you need them. Contact the ESPACE organizations in your region. They can help you or refer you to other resources.


In your daily action, you can make a prevention. 

That way they can develop comnfidence, autonomy, strenght and affirmation. A child that develops those abilities is less vulnerable towards violence and bulying

How ?

Talking with them about their rights and 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.


Try to imagine what your child wants to hear

« I think it’s great that you talked to me about it and 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 ? »

« In love you and I always will »

The « What would you do if… » game

  • If someone from your neighbourhood offered you 20$ to help them bring their grocery bags into their kitchen?
  • If you got lost in a public plave ?
  • If someone that you know ans love asks you to kiss them, when you don’t want to ?

Games based on preventionare an excellent way to pass on information to your child. The more you play games, the more your child becomes aware of their ability to find solutions.

The child will understand that it is important to :

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

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 to talk to the child, for example, about good and bad secrets, about the kind of touches that makes them fell good or not.

Start with short and simple information, adapted to the child’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 ;
  • ask your child their ideas to solve the probelm.  Avoid taking charge 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 !


With your daily actions, you can give your child a good part of the baggage that will allow to face the different forms of violence that can occur in their life. Preventig reduces your child’s vulnerability toward violence and builying.

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.

Trust yourself. you possess this strength that allows children to acquire the necessary abilities to face life in general.


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