Blog scenario was written by JFCY volunteer and PLE Team Member Cydney Kim, a grade 11 student at UTS. Legal info by JFCY.
Ashley is a 14 year old student who has just started high school. After moving with her mom and her new step-father to another city, her school and neighborhood are both unfamiliar and daunting. Luckily, she befriends Jasmine on the first day and soon begins to confide in her. The biggest challenge that Ashley faces is getting used to her new step-father. While she respects her mom’s decision to marry him, she finds it hard to warm up to him.
One day, Ashley accidentally breaks a plate while her mom is not home. Suddenly, her step-father begins to scold her. While it began as a lecture, it gets more heated until he harshly pushes her up against a wall, bruising her back. Later that day, he approaches her and apologizes, claiming that he acted out rashly in a moment of anger. However, it doesn’t stop there. These incidents of physical abuse grow more frequent and Ashley begins to fear going home. Not wanting to end her mother’s marriage, she doesn’t tell her mother and keeps it to herself. After all, her step-father always apologizes to her afterwards.
However, her friend Jasmine soon realizes that something is wrong when Ashley begins to come to school with bruises on her arms and worried expressions. Eventually Ashley explains how she received the bruises but brushes the situation aside; saying that her step-father didn’t mean it and that time would solve the problem. As Ashley walks away, Jasmine realizes that these incidents will only grow worse if nothing is done.
What can Jasmine do?
This blog post covers what happens when someone suspects that a child is being harmed or is unsafe at home, and the beginning of the process where child protection services become involved with a family. It does not describe what happens after the first court hearing if a child is removed from home. For more information about child welfare court from a young person’s perspective, check out this JFCY pamphlet. For information for parents and guardians on child protection, check out Family Law Education for Women’s page on child protection.
If Jasmine is concerned about Ashley, she can talk to a teacher or other trusted adult.
Jasmine can tell an adult that she thinks that Ashley may be suffering from abuse at home. For example, she can tell one of their teachers. Abuse is harm that can take many different forms, including both words and physical actions. Many times, abuse takes place between people who are in close relationships, like people in a sexual relationship or a parent and child. This can make abuse very difficult to discuss and respond to. However, no person ever deserves abuse, and regardless of whether Ashley broken things or misbehaved, her step-father has no right to hit her in anger. For more info on the laws around physical punishment (or “spanking”) click here.
The adult that Jasmine confides in about her concerns for Ashley may talk to Ashley to find out what is going on. If this adult thinks that Ashley is being abused then that person has a legal duty to report the situation to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). According to Ontario law, every member of the public must contact CAS if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child is being abused or neglected. CAS has the authority to investigate situations after they are contacted. This means that CAS will get in touch with the family to find out what is happening. If necessary, they may act to make sure that the child is safe.
For more info on what happens once that CAS is involved with a family see our earlier post here.