I have a disability. How do I know if I am experiencing abuse?

2. Decide if you should tell someone about the abuse

Think about someone you can talk to about the abuse. You might also want to contact the police by calling 911 in an emergency.

It can be hard to decide if you should tell someone about the abuse. You might be scared that:

  • they won't keep it secret
  • they won't believe you
  • you'll lose supports and services

You might also be scared of what people will say or do if you tell, or how your abuser will react.

You can talk to someone you trust about the abuse, such as a doctor, nurse, lawyer, social worker, or counsellor.

A friend or family member might want to help you. But they might not know how. And they might not understand that abuse affects people differently. You might seem okay to them even though you are not. Friends or family might feel they need to take sides if they also know the abuser. Or they might not understand how important your privacy is.

Reasons to tell someone about the abuse

Telling someone about the abuse might:

  • be the only way to stop the abuse
  • help you feel better about yourself
  • protect other people from being abused

Telling someone about the abuse might also lead to consequences for the abuser, or compensation for you.

Be careful who you tell. Choose someone who won't tell others without asking you first. It could make things worse if you tell someone who:

  • can't be trusted
  • doesn't believe you
  • is loyal to the abuser

Before you tell someone about the abuse, you can ask if they will keep your information private. Some people might not be able to keep it private because they have to report whenever they suspect or find out about abuse.

People who must report abuse

Here are some situations where the person you tell might not be allowed to keep it private

If Developmental Services Ontario (DSO), or another agency providing developmental services, suspects that you have been abused, they might have to tell your substitute decision makers, if you have any. They have to get your consent first, unless they think you are not capable of giving your consent.

And if DSO or the agency thinks the abuse might be a crime, they have to call the police. They don't have to get your consent to do this. And they are not allowed to look into the situation until the police have finished their investigation.

If you live in a long-term care home or a , anyone (except another resident) who thinks you have been abused has to report it. If the person you tell is an owner, manager, or employee of the home, they can be charged with an offence if they don't report it.

If anyone thinks a child is being abused or neglected, they must call a Children’s Aid Society. Everyone has a legal duty to report these situations, including family, friends, and neighbours.

Most professionals can be charged with an offence if they don't report child abuse situations to a . This includes teachers, doctors, nurses, daycare workers, family counsellors, social workers, religious leaders, and the police.

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