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Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile

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The Daily


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Most people accused of spousal homicide or attempted homicide had no prior contact with the police for spousal abuse, according to a new study examining 11 years of police-reported data.

The study, "Spousal homicide or attempts and prior police contact for spousal abuse," published today in the 2007 edition of Family Violence in Canada, illustrates that spousal homicide or attempted spousal homicide can occur without prior police knowledge or warning.

The study analyzed data on persons accused of spousal homicide or attempts and their previous contacts with police for spousal abuse over an 11-year time frame, from 1995 to 2005 inclusive.

It found that nearly three-quarters of spousal homicide offenders had no prior contact with police for spousal violence. People accused of "repeated" spousal violence (one to three prior incidents of violence reported to police) preceding the homicide or attempt accounted for 22% of the total. About 4% were considered "chronic" abusers, or those who were involved in four or more police-reported incidents of abuse preceding the spousal homicide or attempt.

There may be various reasons for these findings. For example, there may have been no violence in the relationship prior to the spousal homicide, or there could have been previous violence which was not reported to police.

The study found that perpetrators of spousal homicide or attempted homicide were overwhelmingly male (82%) compared with 18% who were female. The proportion of male spousal homicide offenders who were "repeat" spousal abusers was 3.5 times greater than that of their female counterparts. Males were also more likely to be "chronic" spousal abusers. On the other hand, for 9 in 10 females who killed or attempted to kill their husbands, the homicide or attempt was their first spousal violence offence reported to police during the 11-year time frame.

The study also found that there was a great deal of variability in the length of time between prior spousal violence reported to police and the spousal homicide or attempt. This time ranged from a couple of days to several years.

For over one-third (37%) of spousal homicides or attempts, the elapsed time between the last police-reported incident of spousal abuse and the homicide was less than six months. Another 18% of spousal homicides/attempts occurred between six months and two years of previously reported abuse.

Episodes of reported abuse became more frequent as the spousal homicide or attempt drew nearer. The elapsed time between police-reported spousal abuse decreased from an average of two years between the first and second offence reported to police, to seven months between the reported abuse and the homicide.

Note: This release highlights the 2007 edition of the report Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, which provides estimates on the nature and extent of family violence in Canada and trends over time. The focus of this release is on people accused of spousal homicide/attempts and their patterns of spousal abuse (known by the police) prior to the homicide or attempt. The study also provides the most recent police-reported data on family violence against children and youth, and against seniors aged 65 and over. In addition, data from the Homicide Survey are available on spousal homicides, family-related homicides of children and youth, and older adults.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 3302, 3315 and 4504.

The 2007 edition of Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile (85-224-XIE, free) is now available online. From the Publications module, choose Free Internet publications, then Crime and Justice. A printed copy is also available from the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence (toll-free 1-800-267-1291; 613-957-2938).

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Information and Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.