Seven Facts to Better Understand Violence Against Women in Canada

(Disponible en français : Sept faits pour mieux comprendre la violence faite aux femmes au Canada)

On 6 December 1989, 14 young women were killed because of their gender identity at the École polytechnique de Montréal. Since 1991, December 6th has marked the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.

Over the past year, the #MeToo movement has highlighted the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in Canadian society and allowed many people to report acts of violence they have experienced.

This Hill Note presents seven important facts to better understand the issue of violence against women in Canada.

Victimization rates are higher for women than for men

In 2016, police-reported violent crime rates were higher for women than for men, and were significantly higher in the Canadian territories. As well, rates of self-reported violence are higher among women than among men (85 incidents for 1,000 women vs. 67 incidents for 1,000 men).

Figure 1 – Police-Reported Violent Crime Rates by Province and Territory, 2016

Figure 1 shows the rates of police-reported violent crimes in 2016 for each province and territory in Canada, as well as the average rate for Canada. For each province and territory, as well as for Canada, shown rates are disaggregated by sex (women and men). For all provinces and territories rates of police-reported violent crimes were higher for women than for men. The average rate of police-reported violent crimes in Canada was 981 violent crimes for 100,000 population for women and was 914 violent crimes for 100,000 population for men. Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia’s rates were close to the Canadian average. Prince-Edward Island and Ontario’s rates were lower than the Canadian average. Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut’s rates were significantly higher than the Canadian average. For instance, the police-reported violent crime rate in Nunavut was 9,496 violent crimes for 100,000 population for women and 4,987 violent crimes for 100,000 population for men. Note: Rates are calculated per 100,000 population.
Source: Figure prepared by the author using data obtained from Statistics Canada,Victims of police-reported violent crime and traffic offences causing bodily harm or death, by type of offence and sex of victim,” Table: 35-10-0050-01 (formerly CANSIM 252-0098), consulted on 3 December 2018.

However, police data only capture a portion of violence against women. For example, about 70% of victims of spousal violence do not report incidents of violence they experience to the police.

Women are over-represented as victims of some crimes

All people in Canada can be victims of the same forms of violence; however, some criminal offences (e.g., criminal harassment, sexual assault and trafficking in persons) affect women more than men.

Figure 2 – Victims of Selected Police-Reported Violent Crimes by Sex, 2016

Figure 2 shows the percentage of female and male victims for some police-reported violent crimes in 2016. Among the victims of violations causing death and murder, 26% were women and 74% were men. Among the victims of assaults, 49% were women and 51% were men. Among the victims of indecent/harassing communications, 72% were women and 28 were men. Among the victims of criminal harassment, 76% were women and 24% were men. Among the victims of kidnapping, forcible confinement, abduction or hostage taking, 80% were women and 20% were men. Among the victims of sexual assaults, 89% were women and 11% were men. Among the victims of trafficking in persons and prostitution, 96% were women and 4% were men. Source: Figure prepared by the author using data obtained from Mary Allen and Kylie McCarthy, “Victims of police-reported violent crime in Canada: National, provincial and territorial fact sheets, 2016,” Juristat, 85-002-X, Statistics Canada, 30 May 2018, p. 9.

Some groups of women are at greater risk of experiencing violence

Violence against women can intersect with other forms of violence or discrimination such as racism, homophobia, biphobia and discrimination based on physical ability. As a result, self-reported violent crimes rates are higher for some groups of women.

Figure 3 – Self-Reported Violent Crime Rates Among Women by Selected Identity Characteristics

Figure 3 shows the rate of self-reported violent crimes by female victims, disaggregated by certain identity characteristics. Rates of self-reported violent crimes by female victims are higher for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women, for homosexual and bisexual women than for heterosexual women, for women with a mental health-related disability than for women without a mental health-related disability, and for women with a learning disability than for women without a learning disability. The rate of self-reported violent crimes by female victims is lower for immigrant women than for non-immigrant women, and for visible minority women than for women who are not a visible minority. Rates of self-reported violent crimes by female victims are the highest for Indigenous women, homosexual and bisexual women, women with a mental health-related disability and women with a learning disability.Note: Rates are calculated per 1,000 population aged 15 years and older. Rates presented excludes data from Canada’s three territories. Statistics Canada uses the term “Aboriginal identity” to refer to First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals.
Source: Figure prepared by the author using data obtained from Tina Hotton, Joanna Jacob and Heather Hobson, “Women and the Criminal Justice System,” Table 4 – Number and rate of female victims of self-reported violent crimes, selected characteristics and type of crime, 2014, Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, 89-503-X, Statistics Canada, 21 June 2017.

Women aged 15 to 24 years report the highest rates of violent crime (215 per 1,000 women).

In addition, women living with disabilities are over-represented among victims of violent crime: 45% of women who self-reported being victims of violent crime in 2014 had a disability.

Homicide rates are six times higher for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women

First Nations, Métis and Inuit women are more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous women. Between 2001 to 2015, homicide rates for Indigenous women were six times higher than for non-Indigenous women. Moreover, Indigenous women accounted for an increasing proportion of female homicide victims: this proportion increased from 9% in 1980 to 24% in 2015.

Figure 4 – Rates of Female Homicide, by Aboriginal Identity, 2001 to 2015

Figure 4 shows the female homicide rates by province and territory, as well as for Canada, disaggregated by Indigenous identity for the period from 2001 to 2015. For each province and territory, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, female homicide rates were significantly higher for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women. The average female homicide rate in Canada is 4.82 for 100,000 Indigenous women and 0.82 for 100,000 non-Indigenous women. The five provinces and territories with the highest homicide rates for Indigenous women are Yukon (6.45 for 100,000 Indigenous women), Manitoba (7.07 for 100,000 Indigenous women), Alberta (7.17 for 100,000 Indigenous women), the Northwest Territories (7.85 for 100,000 Indigenous women) and Nunavut (11.84 for 100,000 Indigenous women).Note: Rates are calculated per 100,000 non-Aboriginal women and 100,000 Aboriginal women. Statistics Canada uses the term “Aboriginal” to refer to First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals.
Source : Figure prepared by the author using data obtained from Tina Hotton, Joanna Jacob and Heather Hobson, “Women and the Criminal Justice System,” Chart 10: Rates of female homicide, by Aboriginal identity, provinces and territories, 2001 to 2015, Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, 89-503-X, Statistics Canada, 21 June 2017.

Violence against Indigenous women stems in part from “historical legacies and continuing impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities in Canada” as well as discrimination.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ mandate is to look into and report on the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls. The work of the National Inquiry should be completed by 30 April 2019.

Eighty-five percent of crimes committed against women are committed by people they know

Women are generally victims of violence committed by people they know. In 2015, only 15% of police-reported violent crimes against women were allegedly committed by strangers.

Figure 5 – Relationship Between Female Victims of Crime and the Accused, 2015

Figure 5 shows the relationship between the accused and female victims of violent crimes in 2015. Among those accused of commodification of sexual activity, 9% are intimate partners and 91% are acquaintances. Among those accused of forcible confinement, kidnapping or abduction, 28% are a current or former spouse, 42% are intimate partners, 8% are other family members, 11% are acquaintances and 11% are strangers. Among those accused of criminal harassment, 22% are a current or former spouse, 30% are intimate partners, 6% are other family members, 33% are acquaintances and 10% are strangers. Among those accused of assault, 23% are a current or former spouse, 28% are intimate partners, 16% are other family members, 22% are acquaintances and 11% are strangers. Among those accused of sexual assault, 5% are a current or former spouse, 11% are intimate partners, 19% are other family members, 44% are acquaintances and 21% are strangers. Among those accused of attempted murder, 23% are a current or former spouse, 15% are intimate partners, 23% are other family members, 15% are acquaintances and 24% are strangers. Among those accused of homicide, 36% are a current or former spouse, 12% are intimate partners, 29% are other family members, 18% are acquaintances and 6% are strangers. Note: Excludes incidents where the relationship between the victim and the accused, the sex and/or the age of victim was unknown.
Source: Figure prepared by the author using data obtained from Tina Hotton, Joanna Jacob and Heather Hobson, “Women and the Criminal Justice System,” Table 3 – Female victims of violent crime, by relationship of the accused to the victim, 2015, Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, 89-503-X, Statistics Canada, 21 June 2017.

Only about 12% of police-reported sexual assaults result in a conviction

The attrition of sexual assault cases in the criminal justice system is mainly due to the low rate of these crimes being reported to the police: in 2014, only 5% of self-reported incidents of sexual assault were reported to the police.

Figure 6 – Attrition of Sexual Assault Cases in the Criminal Justice System

Figure 6 shows the attrition of sexual assault cases in the criminal justice system in Canada. In Canada, out of 100 police-reported sexual assault, 87% of victims are women, 43% result in a charge being laid, 21% lead to a completed court case, 12% lead to a criminal conviction and 7% result in a custody sentence.Note: Data presented is based on police-reported sexual assaults cases between 2009 and 2014. Police-reported sexual assaults are those that are brought to the attention of the police and classified as founded.
Source : Infographic prepared by the Library of Parliament using data from Cristine Rotenberg, “From arrest to conviction: Court outcomes of police-reported sexual assaults in Canada, 2009 to 2014,” Juristat, 85-002-X, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, 26 October 2017, and from Cristine Rotenberg, « Police-reported sexual assaults in Canada, 2009 to 2014: A statistical profile », Juristat, 85-002-X, Statistics Canada, 3 October 2017.

Violence against women has significant impacts on victims and on Canadian society

Violence against women can have major impacts on women’s physical and mental health such as trauma, injuries, gynecological problems and unintended pregnancies as well as mental health concerns.

Violence against women can also have major socio-economic impacts on Canadian society. Many female victims of violence use formal support services, such as shelters and centres for women. Violence against women can therefore be a financial burden on social services, criminal justice services, employees and employers. The Government of Canada estimates the economic costs of intimate partner violence against women to be $4.8 billion annually. The costs of sexual assaults and other sexual offences against women in Canada are estimated to be $3.6 billion annually.

Author: Dominique Montpetit, Library of Parliament

 

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