Services provided to children aged 12 and under who are victims of sexual violence
At Fondation Marie-Vincent, children who are victims of sexual violence receive services tailored to their needs. All services – police, medical, psychosocial and sociolegal – are provided in one place.
How does a police interview work?
In a police interview, an investigator questions the child about the sexual assault without ever suggesting answers or influencing their memory. The investigators are experienced and trained to conduct interviews with children and teens. The objective of the interview is to provide a summary that’s as accurate as possible and to determine if a sexual assault has indeed taken place. This interview is recorded as proof and can be used if legal proceedings are undertaken. Following the interview, the investigator sends the file to a crown prosecutor, who determines whether charges will be filed.
If a child talks to you about a sexual assault, it is important to listen without questioning as long as legal proceedings are underway.
What is the medical exam for?
The medical exam serves to reassure the child and the parents about the child’s health. It also supports the steps undertaken with certain workers or investigators. During the exam, a doctor and a clinical nurse from Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine or Montreal Children’s Hospital assess the child’s overall health. The exam always considers the child’s consent and respects their needs.
What is the assessment?
The assessment determines what services will best meet the child’s needs. Carried out by clinical professionals, the assessment’s objectives are to:
- document the child’s state in the various spheres of their life (social, emotional, behavioural, school, family, etc.);
- evaluate their difficulties in relation to the sexual assault;
- identify their coping strategies or feelings in relation to the sexual assault;
- assess the parent’s capacity to support the child;
- assess the consequences of the sexual assault on the child and on the parents;
- recommend services that meet the child’s specific needs.
For the child’s needs to be assessed, the sexual assault must have been confirmed by the Director of Youth Protection or a police department.
What does the treatment provided to children consist of?
The treatment provided at Fondation Marie-Vincent is based on best practices and is recognized for its high effectiveness. It rests on a cognitive-behavioural approach centred on trauma resolution that encourages:
- expressing feelings;
- changing harmful thoughts into helpful thoughts;
- emotional management;
- expressing the child’s experience in relation to the sexual assault;
- identifying and changing erroneous thoughts about the sexual assault and about sexuality;
- acquiring knowledge about sexual assault and sexual education;
- developing self-affirmation and self-protection;
- strengthening communication skills.
After treatment, studies have shown that children exhibit:
- better self-esteem;
- fewer symptoms of anxiety;
- fewer symptoms of depression;
- fewer avoidance strategies;
- fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress;
- fewer feelings of guilt;
- fewer symptoms of dissociation
Services provided to children under 12 who have sexual behaviour problems
What are sexual behaviour problems?
Sexual behaviour problems are behaviours of a sexual nature that are considered inappropriate to a child’s age and developmental stage. They may be harmful to the child themselves or to other children involved.
How can healthy sexual behaviour be differentiated from problematic behaviour?
Sexual exploration is a healthy behaviour that can help the child learn who they are, what they feel and who they like. Behaviours are healthy when they happen between children of the same age group, cause pleasurable sensations and emotions, and satisfy curiosity, exploration or pleasure-seeking.
Some indicators can help determine whether a behaviour is problematic:
- difference in age, size or status;
- the use of force, threats or intimidation;
- adult sexual behaviours;
- physical pain or unpleasant emotions;
- high frequency of the behaviour;
- persistence of the behaviour despite limits set by the adult;
What treatment is provided to children?
The treatment provided to children rests on a cognitive-behavioural approach focused on sexual behaviour management and parent-child communication.
The treatment helps children to:
- identify and express their feelings;
- understand the relationship between thoughts;
- feelings and behaviours;
- recognize problematic sexual behaviours and their consequences;
- learn to manage their emotions;
- discuss problematic sexual behaviours;
- identify and reframe erroneous thoughts and beliefs in relation to sexuality;
- acquire knowledge regarding sexuality education;
- develop self-affirmation and self-protection skills;
- and develop communication skills.