National Day of remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

National Day of remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Violence against Women in Canada: A snapshot

Violence against women by their male intimate partners around the world is a widespread, systemic problem,[1] and Canada is no exception. Through Statistics Canada, the Canadian government has been tracking rates of violence against women in Canada since 1993.[2] It has remained a consistent and pressing problem throughout this period.[3] Despite an overall drop in the crime rate,[4] women in 2009 reported rates of physical assault and sexual assault similar to those reported in 1999.[5] In 2009, of the eight crimes reported in the General Social Survey, women were most likely to report being a victim of physical assault, followed by sexual assault, and robbery.[6] According to 2009 police-reported data, spouses (current or former), and other intimate partners, committed more than 41% of violent incidents involving female crime victims. Other family members and acquaintances account for another 42% of violent incidents. In other words, 83% of violent crimes committed against women are perpetrated by people they know.[7] In 2006, spousal violence made up the single largest category of convictions involving violent offences in non-specialized adult courts in Canada over the five-year period 1997/98 to 2001/02. Over 90% of offenders were male.[8]

Women are also more likely to be killed by a male spouse or other intimate partner than anyone else. In 2009, females accounted for 71% of victims of homicides perpetrated by a current spouse, 88% by a former spouse, and 78% involving other intimate partners.[9]

These rates, which include data from police, may under represent the actual rates of violence against women, due to underreporting of violence. In 2009, only one-quarter of women victims of spousal violence reported the incident to police. Reasons for not reporting to police are varied and include fear of reprisals by the offender, shame and embarrassment, and a reluctance to become involved with the police and courts.[10] This is down from 2004 reporting rates, which showed 36% of female victims of spousal violence reported these crimes to the police.[11]

Angela Cameron is a Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law

[1] United Nations Secretary General, In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General (New York, United Nations general Assembly, 2006).
[2] In 1993 Statistics Canada conducted the first survey dedicated to violence against women. (Johnson, infra at 16). Also, 2011 marks the twelfth edition of Statistics Canada’s more general violence measuring tool, which tracks ungendered data collected from the national census in five year cycles. (Canada, Statistics Canada, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2011).
[3] Holly Johnson, Measuring Violence against Women: Statistical Trends, 2006 (Ottawa: Minister of Industry, 2006). It is worth noting that updated, ungendered statistics from 2009 do not show any significant changes from the 2006 data, except to note that ‘rates of self-reported spousal violence remained stable, as did the severity of the violence, although overall survivors were less likely to report violence to the police.” (Statistics Canada, supra note 2 at 2).
[4] Johnson, supra note 3.
[5] Mahoney, infra at 6.
[6] Statistics Canada, Women and the Criminal Justice System by Tina Hottan Mahoney (Canada: Minister of Industry 2011) at 5 [Mahoney].
[7] Ibid. at 7.
[8] Statistics Canada, Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006 (Ottawa: Minister of Industry, 2006).
[9] Mahoney, supra note 6 at 13.
[10]Ibid. at 6.
[11] Statistics Canada, Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006 (Ottawa: Minister of Industry, 2006).

Designed by Rachel Gold.