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Dealing with Harassment

What is Harassment?

Harassment is offensive behaviour – emotional, physical, and/or sexual – that involves discrimination against a person because of their race, national or ethnic origin, age, colour, religion, family status, sexual orientation, sex/gender, disability, marital status, or pardoned conviction. It is conduct that is disrespectful, insulting, ­intimidating, humiliating, offensive or physically harmful.

Harassment is a HUMAN RIGHTS violation.

Harassment may be a single event or a pattern of mistreatment. Harassment occurs when someone attempts to negatively control, influence or embarrass another person or group based on a prohibited ground of discrimination. Examples include displays of favouritism, subtle put downs or ostracism.

Dealing with harassment can sometimes be difficult as what is viewed as harassment by one person may be viewed as a “joke” by another person.

It is the impact of the behaviour on the victim that is the most critical issue, not the intention of the person who harasses.


Emotional, physical, sexual, race, disability; may be motivated by racial or other forms of prejudice


Person of any age; may be male or female


May be peer or person with power or authority over adult victim; may be male or female


Most often internal, unless referred to police in cases of suspected physical or sexual assault or criminal harassment (stalking)

Follow-up Actions

Determined by an organization’s harassment policies, Criminal Code, labour tribunals, civil action and/or Provincial Human Rights Tribunals; may be used concurrently or alone


The victim is not to blame; offenders are responsible for their behavior

Types of Harassment

Racial Harassment (Racism)

Treating a person differently because of his/her colour, racial or ethnic background.

Examples: Making jokes, insinuations, humiliating comments or racially oriented remarks, criticizing and being intolerant of differences: accents, clothing, hairdo, customs and beliefs.

Disability Harassment

Treating a person differently because of a real or perceived disability, either physical, developmental or illness-related. Disability Harassment may be:

  • Verbal or Written: name-calling or threatening the person with physical harm
  • Physical: actually causing physical harm to a person (criminal charges may be laid)
  • Exclusion: preventing an individual from fully participating in on-ice or team activities

Sexual Harassment

Unwelcome behaviour of a sexual or gender nature that negatively affects the person or the environment.

Examples: Questions about one’s sex life, pressuring for dates or sexual favours, sexual staring, sexual comments, showing or sharing sexual images in person or online, unwanted touching, spreading sexual rumors (including online), insults about sexual orientation and sexual assault. In the case of sexual assault, criminal charges may be laid.

Criminal Harassment (Stalking)

Following another person; monitoring a person or someone close to the person, or his/her home; contacting the person repeatedly against his/her wishes; or threatening the person. The victim must have reason to fear for his/her safety (or the safety of someone else) and the perpetrator must know – or be reasonably expected to know – that the victim is fearful. (Family Violence in Canada, A Statistical Profile, 2001)

Other Examples of Harassment

  • Unwelcome jokes, innuendo or teasing about a person’s looks, body, attire, age, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.
  • Condescending, patronizing, threatening or punishing actions which undermine self-esteem or diminish performance.
  • Practical jokes that cause awkwardness or embarrassment, endanger a person’s safety, or negatively affect performance.
  • Unwanted or unnecessary physical contact including touching, patting or pinching.
  • Any form of hazing.
  • Any form of physical assault or abuse.
  • Any sexual offense.
  • Behaviours such as those described above which are not directed towards individuals or groups but which have the effect of creating a negative or hostile environment.

When you believe that your child, or any child, is a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying, report it to the proper authorities.

< Back to Maltreatment, Bullying & Harassment

How to keep children safe

I. Focus on the following five essentials to help keep your child safe:

a) Communication

  • Listen, talk, believe and reassure your child.
  • Provide opportunities for conversations.
  • Be open to any questions; nothing is off limits.
  • Be open to discussing difficult subjects such as sexuality.
  • Develop frank and open communication with the coaches.
  • If you have concerns, communicate them to the appropriate persons.
  • If you see or hear bullying, harassing or abusive behaviour, speak out!

b) Knowledge

  • Make your child aware of vulnerable situations.
  • Review your club’s bullying, harassment and abuse policy and procedures.
  • Be aware of your club’s screening and selection process for staff and volunteers.
  • Get to know the adults who are interacting with your child.
  • Discuss with coaches their expectations and the setting of boundaries: physical, sexual and social.

c) Develop personal skills

  • Teach your child specific ways to handle difficult situations.
  • Help your child define their personal boundaries.
  • Teach your child how to be assertive when their boundaries are crossed.

d) Build a safety plan

  • Develop check-ins, contingency plans, family codes.
  • Attend practices and games.
  • Be wary of regular private closed practices.
  • Be concerned of time spent alone with older youth and adults beyond training and game times.

e) Advocate

  • You are your child’s strongest supporter.
  • Evaluate situations according to the “best interest of your child”.

II. Be aware, and pay attention to in-person and online interactions involving your child.

a) In-Person

  • Remind your child that if someone is being harassed, s/he should not watch, laugh or join in.
  • Ensure all children are included in group activities and inappropriate behaviours are addressed.
  • Help your child see the value of offering empathy and support to those who are bullied.
  • Demonstrate respectful behaviour at home and in your daily interactions.

b) Online (Cyberbullying)

  • Learn about the websites, blogs, chatrooms and cyber-lingo that your children are using.
  • Recognize that online communication is a very important social aspect in your child’s life.
  • Talk to your children about what is acceptable behaviour online and offline.
  • Keep the computer in a common area so you can monitor activities.
  • Establish communication lines with your child so s/he feels comfortable talking about cyberbullying experiences. Let them know that you are there to support them.
  • Report any incident of online harassment and physical threats to the local police and/or your Internet Service Provider.
  • Report any bullying that occurs over your child’s cell phone to your phone service provider. You may have to change the phone number if the problem does not stop.

When you believe that your child, or any child, is a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying, report it to the proper authorities.

What to do when Harassment occurs

If you are the target of Harassment:

  • It is not your fault, and there is nothing wrong with you. No one deserves to be bullied or harassed.
  • Tell an adult you trust. They can give you support and help stop the bullying or harassment. If no one helps you, keep telling until you do get help.
  • Have a teacher or an adult help you with a safety plan if the bullying is making you afraid or upset.
  • Stay calm and walk away. Responding with insults or fighting back will make the problem worse.
  • Use humour. Make the person think you don’t care.
  • Be assertive, look confident and let the person know s/he needs to stop.
  • Hang out with friends who will support you and work together to speak out against bullying and harassment.


  • STOP – Do not try to reason with or talk to someone who is cyberbullying you.
  • BLOCK – Use the block sender technology to prevent the person from contacting you again.
  • TALK – Tell a trusted adult, inform your school, use a help line and/or report it to police.
  • SAVE – Save any instant messages or emails you receive from the person who is bullying you.

If you are a witness to Harassment:

  • Stand up for the person being targeted. A passive response gives the bully a sense of reinforcement as there is no opposition. A negative response supports the person being bullied and may stop the bullying.
  • Refuse to go along with bullying or harassment – people who laugh, agree or cheer only encourage the behaviour. Instead, take the side of the person who is being targeted. Don’t give the bully positive attention, power or social status.
  • Report what you see or hear to an adult or police.

If you are harassing someone:

  • Stop the aggressive, controlling behaviour.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Treat people the way you want to be treated.
  • Learn how to be a good friend.
  • Talk to someone about how you feel and ask for help.

If you suspect your child is being harassed, follow the acronym DARE:

D (DOCUMENT): Document your observations.

  • Record behaviors, dates, times and people involved.
  • Don’t pressure the child or youth for details - the matter may go to court, so it is important that evidence is not contaminated.

A (AFFIRM): Affirm the child’s situation.

  • Identify vulnerable situations and be there to observe and protect your child.
  • Don’t assume the child or youth hates the person hurting them - there may be conflicting feelings
  • Don’t react with shock, horror or disbelief - even though you may feel like it.
  • Seek advice or information from a knowledgeable person.
  • Tell your child your concerns.
  • Listen to your child’s fears about the situation.

R (REPORT/REFER): If you have strong suspicions, report to the appropriate authorities. Don’t promise to keep a secret - you are legally bound to report if it is a protection or criminal issue. Don’t put the responsibility of reporting on someone else - they may not do it.

  • Manage minor conflicts with respect
  • If it is moderate or serious harassment, refer the complaint as specified in your organization’s policy.
  • If it is Criminal Harassment or Abuse, the police must be informed.
  • Keep it confidential; do not get caught in the rumour mill.

E (ESTABLISH): Establish support for your child. But don’t promise “everything will be fine” as there are many problems to resolve and they will take time.

If you are told that someone is being harassed:

Your priority is to ensure that the child’s best interests are protected. That can be done by following the acronym HEARD:

H (HEAR): Hear what they are saying and not saying. Listen to the child’s fears about the situation.

E (EMPATHIZE): Empathize with the child. Let them know you understand, and will help.

A (AFFIRM): Identify vulnerable situations and be there to protect the child.


  • Manage minor conflicts with respect
  • If it is moderate or serious bullying or harassment, refer the complaint as specified in your organization’s policy.
  • If it is Criminal Harassment, the police must be informed.
  • If it is abuse refer immediately to your Provincial/Territorial Child Protection Agency or Police.
  • Keep it confidential; do not get caught in the rumour mill.

D (DOCUMENT): Document the situation and your response; determine the support the child needs.

When you believe that your child, or any child, is a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying, report it to the proper authorities.

Identifying suspected harassment

How do children and youth cope with the trauma of bullying, harassment and abuse?

  • Pretend it never happened.
  • Convince themselves that it wasn’t so terrible.
  • Find excuses as to why it happened.
  • Blame themselves.
  • Develop physiological defenses - headaches, body pains and illnesses.
  • Escape through drugs, alcohol, food or sex.
  • Try to hide from their pain by being perfect.
  • Attempt suicide.

Why do kids not tell?

  • Fear.
  • Believe they are responsible.
  • Do not want to get the perpetrator into trouble.
  • Embarrassed/ashamed.
  • Think no one will believe them.
  • Worry that they will not be allowed to play hockey.

What can a parent do?

  • Listen and observe
  • Watch interactions with others
  • Be aware of sudden changes in behaviour and/or displays of anger
  • Question bruises/ marks on face, back, thighs, upper arms, head, buttocks, genital areas

Why don’t people report?

  • Unaware of the reporting laws and policies.
  • Believe that they can take care of the problem themselves.
  • Fearful of retaliation from the abuser - or are friends with the abuser.
  • Find it hard to believe.
  • Assume someone else will make a report.
  • Don’t want “to tell” on someone.
  • Want to protect their child from questions and embarrassment.
  • Are not sure where or how to make a report.
  • Just want it “all to go away”.

Do children ever make false allegations?

  • Yes - research shows that about 8% of disclosures are false.
  • Most of the false allegations by children are encouraged by adults.
  • It is important to reinforce the truth - false allegations are devastating to the person accused.

When you believe that your child, or any child, is a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying, report it to the proper authorities.