College Sexual Abuse Policy


Your protection comes first when dealing with any regulated health care professional. Patients and clients have a right to a secure and trustworthy environment in a therapeutic relationship – and that includes the right to be safe from any sexual abuse or inappropriate behaviour.

If you have questions, or think you have been sexually abused by an occupational therapist, contact the College at 416.214.1177/1.800.890.6570 x234 or investigations@coto.org. The College has a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse by occupational therapists.

You can report sexual abuse to the College directly or you can ask someone to report on your behalf. If you choose to report this behaviour to a regulated health care professional they are required by law to report it to the College.

All individuals who bring forward complaints regarding sexual abuse will be treated sensitively and compassionately.

What is Sexual Abuse?


Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 defines sexual abuse of a patient as:

  • sexual intercourse or other forms of physical sexual relations between the patient and the therapist;
  • touching, of a sexual nature, of the patient by the therapist; and
  • behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature by the therapist towards their patient.
'Sexual nature' does not include touching, behaviour or remarks that are necessary in order for the therapist to do their work with a client.

If you are unsure about the treatment you received, contact the College.

College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario
20 Bay Street, Suite 900
P.O. Box 78
Toronto, ON M5J 2N8
Phone: 416.214.1177 x234
Toll Free: 1.800.890.6570 234
Fax: 416.214.0586
E-mail: investigations@coto.org

Know Your Rights

Even if patients initiate an intimate or personal relationship with their occupational therapist (OT), it’s the OT''s responsibility to say “no” and maintain appropriate boundaries. There’s no such thing as mutual consent in these circumstances.

The College advises patients and clients to:

  • Remember your right to understand the treatment or service you will receive from a therapist.
  • Ask questions if you do not understand what is happening during treatment or why, or if you are not comfortable.
  • Feel free to say “no” or “stop” at any time, for any reason.
  • Have a third person present, if desired, when you are being assessed or treated.
  • Report sexual abuse to the College, or contact the College if you are unsure or uncomfortable about treatment you have received:
  • Understand more about sexual abuse by reviewing Information About Sexual Abuse

Taking Action

The standards and guidelines for the profession define appropriate conduct and unacceptable behavior for occupational therapists. The College enforces these expectations.

Anyone calling themselves an occupational therapist in Ontario must be registered with the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario. To find out if your occupational therapist is registered with the College, check Find an Occupational Therapist.

The College has developed a Sexual Abuse Prevention Program for registered OTs to help educate the profession about:

  • the definition of sexual abuse;
  • identification of sexual abuse;
  • professional obligations and boundaries;
  • reporting obligations; and
  • ethical behaviour.
The College has trained its staff about what is considered sexual abuse, and provided clear information to the public about what to expect during a visit with an OT and who to contact with concerns.

All occupational therapists and facility operators are required to report to the College, in writing, if they learn of or witness the sexual abuse of a patient by an occupational therapist or any other a regulated health professional. Reports must go to the College or, in the case of suspected abuse by another category of health professional, to the governing body of that professional. Failure to report the incident is an offence under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991.