There is no mandatory obligation to report woman abuse to the police.
It is the woman’s right to choose if she wishes to have police involvement and she must consent to this involvement prior to the nurse initiating such action. Nurses must respect the woman’s decision and advocate for her right to choose.
Since this best practice guideline recommends screening for woman abuse for women ages 12 and over, disclosure of abuse by a teen woman may necessitate the involvement of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).
The following information is a general guide to practice in this area.
According to the Criminal Code of Canada young women over the age of 12 are able to consent to sexual activity in the following circumstances:
- When she is between the ages of 12-14 and the age difference between the two persons is not more than 2 years; and
- When the young person is age 14 or older and the other person is not in a position of trust or authority.
While teen sexuality may pose a challenge for the individual nurse, it is not necessarily a reportable event as illustrated in the above circumstances.
The factors that define a report to CAS are:
- When the young woman is under 16 years of age and the alleged abuser is a person in a care-giving role; or
- When the young woman is under 16 years of age and the alleged abuser is in a role of authority or trust.
Assaults by a boyfriend are reportable only if these conditions apply or if the teen’s parent(s)/caregiver(s) know of the abuse and do nothing to provide appropriate supervision to protect the young woman from harm.
There is no age of consent for treatment or for collecting information to establish a health record, so young women are entitled to make their own health decisions, provided the health care professional feels they understand the circumstances and can make an informed choice. Once the capable young woman has made a treatment decision, parent(s)/caregiver(s), or CAS cannot have access to the health record without her consent.
In the case of a conflict, the capable young woman’s decision always takes precedence.
As this is recent legislation that will impact nursing practice, it is advised that nurses consult with their nurse-manager and/or their agency’s privacy officer.