Abusive Behaviour


Abused children do not always show obvious signs of abuse or neglect. This is why it's important to recognize different types of abusive behaviour that can be harmful towards children. Please visit Learn the Signs of Abuse and Neglect to learn more. If you have any concerns about a child at risk of harm, please call our 24/7 hotline immediately: 416-395-1500.



Emotional/Verbal Abuse
Includes hurtful or threatening remarks/behaviour towards a child. Please note that it is often difficult to identify this type of abusive behaviour.

  • Name calling, "You're a good-for-nothing"
  • Belittling, "I wish you were never born"
  • Destroying child's possessions or pets
  • Threatens to harm child or people they care about, e.g. “I'll break your arm”
  • Locking a child in a closet or box
  • Rejecting a child
  • Isolating a child


Sexual Abuse
Includes any inappropriate touching by anyone, including strangers and family members.

  • Touching a child’s genital area
  • Any type of penetration of a child
  • Allowing a child to view or participate in pornography
  • Prostitution, selling your child for money, drugs, etc.
  • Forcing a child to perform oral sex acts
  • Masturbating in front of a child
  • Having sex in front of a child


Physical Abuse
Includes any type of contact that results in bodily harm such as bruising, abrasions, broken bones, internal injuries, burning, missing teeth and skeletal injuries.

  • Hitting or slapping a child with an extension cord, hands, belts, fists, broom handles, brushes, etc.
  • Putting child into hot water
  • Cutting the child with a knife or any other sharp object
  • Shaking or twisting arms or legs, yanking a child by the arm
  • Putting tape over a child's mouth
  • Tying a child up with rope or cord
  • Throwing a child across a room or down the stairs


Woman Abuse
Includes any type of violence and emotional abuse witnessed by children within the family home. All children experience a range of trauma in families where women are abused.

  • Woman abuse is any use of psychological, physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, in an intimate relationship
  • Violence is used to intimidate, humiliate or frighten victims, or to make them feel powerless
  • Men can also be abused, but the term ‘woman abuse’ recognizes that women are most often the victims of abuse and men are most often the perpetrators
  • Abuse against women occurs in families of all socioeconomic, educational and cultural backgrounds
  • The abuse may be a single act, but most often it occurs in a context where there is a pattern of assaultive and controlling behaviour. Typically, abuse escalates in frequency and/or severity
  • Non-physical forms of abuse are as harmful to women as physical abuse. Tactics of control may appear gradually as coercive behaviours
  • Children can be injured as a direct result of woman abuse. Men who are violent sometimes intentionally injure children in an effort to intimidate and control their intimate partners


Includes inability to meet the basic needs of the child and is the most common form of maltreatment. It can also reflect Caregiver Capacity (see below).

  • Medical - not giving a child life-sustaining medicines, overmedicating, not obtaining special treatment devices deemed necessary by a physician
  • Supervision - leaving child/children unattended and leaving child/children in the care of other children too young to protect them (depending upon the maturity of the child)
  • Clothing and good hygiene - dressing children inadequately for weather, persistent skin disorders resulting from improper hygiene
  • Nutrition - lack of sufficient quantity or quality of food, letting a child consistently complain of hunger and allowing the child to rummage for food
  • Shelter - having structurally unsafe housing, inadequate heating, and unsanitary housing conditions.



Caregiver Capacity
Caregiver demonstrates, or has demonstrated in the past, characteristics that indicate the child would be at risk of harm without intervention.

  • History of abusing/ neglecting a child
  • Being unable to protect a child from harm for various reasons (including those outlined below)
  • Problems such as drug or alcohol abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Limited care-giving skills