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Child Abuse Unit (CAU)

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The Child Abuse Unit (CAU) is a centralized unit that services the entire Region of Niagara. The CAU works closely with Family and Children's Services Niagara and the Child Advocacy Centre of Niagara. The CAU was formed in 1992 and currently has 8 detectives including a supervisor.

Mandate:

 

The CAU is responsible for investigating all incidents of child sexual abuse or child physical abuse that occur in the Niagara Region, where the victim is under 16 years of age at the time the incident is reported. The investigators working in the CAU are specially trained in: Interviewing, Offences Against Children, Major Case Management, and Search Warrants.

If you believe that your child has been a victim of sexual or physical abuse, we encourage you to contact the Niagara Regional Police Service at (905) 688-4111 or Family and Children's Services Niagara at (905) 937-7731.

A "Frequently Asked Questions" Guide To Assist Parents and Caregivers Of Children Who Have Been Abused

 

What is the age of Sexual Consent?

 

The age of sexual consent in Canada is 16 years of age, providing:  consent for the sexual activity was given, the sexual partner is not a person of trust and authority, the relationship is not exploitative in nature and the young person is not in a relationship of dependency with the sexual partner.

Can a person under the age of 16 years be in a sexual relationship?

 

Children who are 12 or 13

May have sexual contact with a person who is less than 2 years older of their age, provided:

  • There is CONSENT and
  • The sexual partner is not in a position of trust or authority, their relationship is not exploitative and the young person is not in a relationship of dependency with the sexual partner.

Children who are 14 or 15

May have sexual contact with a person who is less than 5 years older of their age, provided:

  • There is CONSENT and
  • The sexual partner is not in a position of trust or authority, their relationship is not exploitative and the young person is not in a relationship of dependency with the sexual partner.

For more information in relation to the Age of Consent and related Offences outlined in the Criminal Code, please connect to the following:

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/clp/faq.html

What should I do if I suspect ANY child has been abused?

 

If ANY child makes a disclosure that they have been the victim of abuse including: sexual, physical or emotional abuse OR you suspect that the child may be in need of protection as they are not being adequately cared for, the matter MUST be reported.

Incidents of sexual or physical abuse should be reported to the Niagara Regional Police Service or Family and Children's Service Niagara, which is the local Children's Aid Society.

Incidents of neglect or emotional abuse should be reported to Family and Children's Services at telephone:  905-937-7731.  For more information about Family and Children's Services Niagara visit:

https://www.facsniagara.on.ca/en/

***Section 125 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act imposes a duty on every person to report to a Children's Aid Society if they reasonably suspect that a child is in need of protection ***

For more information on a person's duty to report and forms of child abuse please connect to the following:

http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/childrensaid/reportingabuse/abuseandneglect.aspx

What questions should I ask my child if they disclose abuse?

 

BE SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR CHILD, regardless of your personal feelings about the allegation.  Although this may seem obvious, our own emotions and "need to know" may inhibit our ability to provide the best support to the victim.

DO NOT interview or question your child for answers.  Doing so may only cause more stress for the child and could negatively affect the investigative process as you may ask "leading questions" which may alter the child's account of what happened. 

The best practice is to listen to what your child is saying while being mindful of the exact words/phrases they are using.  It may be useful to write the disclosure down when an appropriate time presents itself.  To the best of your abilities, provide this information to the responding agency investigator.  It will be the investigators responsibility to obtain specific details of the incident in a manner that is acceptable for potential future prosecution.

Should I take my child to the Hospital?

 

A child's health is of upmost importance to everyone. If you feel your child needs medical attention they should be brought to the hospital immediately.  Police and/or Family and Children Services can attend your location to obtain further information.

Certain investigations may necessitate a child victim to attend the McMaster Children's Hospital to be examined by Doctors and Nurses specialized in child physical and sexual abuse.   As a part of a sexual abuse investigation, the victim child may undergo a Sexual Assault Examination that is completed by a specially trained medical professional.  Such arrangements are most often made by responding Police or Family and Children Services.

Is there evidence I should be aware of?

 

Any clothing worn by the victim during the time of the abuse should not be washed and should be secured until further notice from police. 

There are occasions, particularly during sexual abuse investigations, that evidence may be located on the body of the victim.  The likelihood of such evidence being located is obviously dependent on the nature and recency of the offence.  In such incidents, it is best that the child victim does not bathe prior to police involvement.

Visible injuries sustained by a child may be photographed during the course of an investigation.  In such cases where injuries and/or red marks are present, it is important to notify the appropriate agencies immediately so that the injuries/marks can be photographed and documented appropriately.

Communications or images that may constitute a criminal offence which are present on a telecommunication device such as cell phones, tablets etc. or via social media applications i.e. Instagram should not be deleted.

What should I expect from the Police?

 

Upon reporting an incident of child abuse to the Niagara Regional Police, a police officer will attend your location to take an initial report with respect to the matter.  The attending member will not interview or question your child unless they feel it is necessary to: ensure the child's safety, to address any medical concerns and/or to ensure the safety of others.

The initial report will be forwarded to a member of the Child Abuse Unit, where the case will be assigned to a Detective.  The assigned Detective will then make arrangements to interview the victim and any other person they believe may possess pertinent information.  Please Note: Depending on the day and time of the initial report and the nature of the abuse, this contact may be delayed by a few days. If there any concerns during this time period, feel free to contact the Sergeant In Charge of the Child Abuse Unit, 905-688-4111 ext. 5100 or 5120.

During the course of most Child Abuse Investigations, a child abuse investigator works in conjunction with a member of Family and Children's Services.

Who is involved in a Child Abuse Investigation?

 

Allegations of child abuse are often investigated by members of the Child Abuse Unit and Family and Children Services.  A "Joint Protocol" exists between the Niagara Regional Police and Family and Children Services that dictates when and how a joint investigation is conducted.

Should an investigation reveal sufficient evidence to lay criminal charges against a suspect, criminal proceedings will follow the initial investigation.  The decision to lay charges will be made in consultation with the victim, their family and the Crown Attorney's Office.

Child Abuse investigations within the Niagara Region operate under a joint protocol involving the following four agencies:

 

Niagara Regional Police Child Abuse Unit

  • Investigation of all allegations of sexual assaults and physical assaults by a caregiver, involving children who are under the age of sixteen years. (at the time the matter is reported to police).
  • Police Detectives who are specially trained to conduct child abuse investigations.
  • Conduct joint investigations with Family and Children’s Services (FACS) Niagara.
  • Interviews of child victims are conducted at the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara and are electronically recorded.
  • Responsible for the criminal investigation, gathering of evidence, interviews of all potential witnesses and the determination if reasonable grounds / sufficient evidence exists to support criminal charges. The laying of criminal charges is solely the responsibility of the police investigator.
  • When making a decision to lay charges, the police investigator will take into account the evidence gathered, the wishes of the victim and/or their parents or caregivers and any consultations with the Crown Attorney.
  • In the event criminal charges are laid, the police will be responsible for arresting the suspect and initiating the court process. The investigator will consult with the victim and/or their parents or caregiver regarding any interim release conditions they may wish to recommend with respect to the suspect.
  • The police officer-in-charge will be responsible for the investigation and any subsequent court case.  If you have any questions, please contact the officer-in-charge or the Victim Witness Assistance Program.

 

Family and Children Services

  • Responsible for the welfare of children under the age of eighteen-years-old in Niagara.
  • In cases of physical or sexual abuse, they will conduct joint investigations with the NRPS Child Abuse Unit.
  • The child protection worker will be present with the child victim at all interviews and any subsequent medical appointments.
  • The child protection worker will be responsible for coordinating with the parents and/or caregiver any medical examinations that may be required.
  • During the course of an investigation, if the child protection worker deems a child victim to be at risk, the worker may apprehend the child victim and place them in a place of safety.
  • The child protection worker, in consultation with the parents and/or caregiver, will make a determination as to whether the child victim requires counseling or therapy.
  • As a result of an investigation, the child protection worker may place the name of a perpetrator on the Ontario Child Abuse Registry.

 

Crown Attorney's Office

  • Responsible for all criminal prosecutions before the courts.
  • Once charges are laid and the matter is ready to go to court, the Crown will meet with the child victim, to introduce themselves to the child and to go over the child’s evidence.
  • Responsible for addressing any special concerns such as the use of electronically recorded statements in court, child-friendly testimony facilities, use of a screen to shield the child’s view of the accused, or any other special needs.
  • Will keep the victims and/or their parents or caregivers informed of any plea arrangements or discussions.
  • Represent the public interest.

  

Victim Witness Assistance Program 

  • Will contact you shortly after charges are laid, and will inform you of the services they provide.
  • Will be responsible for assisting in the preparation of child victims for court.
  • Will be present with the child victim for Crown interviews and all court appearances.
  • Will be a support person in the court room for the child victim, if required.
  • Will keep the victim and/or parents or caregiver informed of all court appearances of the accused.
  • Will assist with the preparation of the victim impact statement for court.

 

The Child Abuse Unit also maintains a working relationship with the following community agencies:

 

 

  • Niagara Health System  905-684-7271                                                                                                           Sexual Assault / Domestic Violence Treatment Program –  Ext. 45300                                                    Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Treatment Program (SADV)                                                                       Children and Adolescent Outpatient Mental Health Program (18 and Under) - Ext. 46573 

  • Pathstone Mental Health - Child Counseling Services  905-688-6850  

  • Niagara Regional Sexual Assault Center   905-682-7258                                                                                  24 Hour Crisis / Information Line   905-682-4584

  • Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP)                                                                                                       St. Catharines   905-685-2671                                                                                                                         Welland   905-735-4326
  • Victim Services Niagara   905-688-4111   Ext. 5084                                                                                           24 Hour Crisis Line 905-682-2626

  • Niagara North Crown Attorney’s Office   905-685-4293

  • Niagara South Crown Attorney’s Office   905-732-1327

  • KIDS HELP LINE   1-800-668-6868

 

For further information on the Child Abuse Unit you can contact the Child Abuse Unit Supervisor at (905) 688-4111 Ext. 5120.

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