Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile

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Of the nearly 19 million Canadians who had a current or former spouse in 2009, 6.2% or 1.2 million reported they had been victimized physically or sexually by their partner or spouse during the five years prior to the survey. This proportion was stable from 2004 (6.6%), the last time the victimization survey was conducted, and down from 1999 (7.4%).

A similar proportion of men and women reported experiencing spousal violence during the five years prior to the survey. Among men, 6.0% or about 585,000, encountered spousal violence during this period, compared with 6.4% or 601,000 women.

About 57% of women who had experienced an incident of spousal violence in the five years prior to the survey reported that it had occurred on more than one occasion, as did 40% of men.

Rates of spousal violence were highest among certain segments of the population, in particular younger adults aged 25 to 34, those in common-law relationships and those living in blended families.

Spousal violence was four times more likely to occur between ex-spouses or partners than current spouses or partners. In 2009, 17% of adults who had contact with an ex-spouse or partner in the previous five years reported they had been physically or sexually assaulted by their partner at least once. Among those with a current spouse or partner, 4% were physically or sexually assaulted during the five-year period prior to the survey.

Among the provinces, the proportion of adults who experienced spousal violence by a current or former partner ranged from 4% in Newfoundland and Labrador to 8% in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Females report more serious violence than males

About 22% of spousal violence victims stated that they had been sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or a knife, similar to 2004.

As in previous surveys, women reported more serious forms of spousal violence than men.

For example, 34% of females who reported spousal violence on the survey said they had been sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or a knife by their partner or ex-partner in the previous five years. This was three times the proportion for men (10%).

As in 2004, 3 in 10 spousal violence victims said they had been injured during the commission of the offence. Women were more than twice as likely as males to state they had been injured.

In addition to physical injuries, more than three-quarters of spousal violence victims reported being emotionally affected.

Spousal violence victims less likely to report incidents to police

Spousal violence was less likely to be reported to police than in the past. In 2009, 22% of spousal violence victims said the police had learned of the incident, down from 28% in 2004.

Most incidents of spousal violence brought to the attention of police were reported by victims themselves. About 23% of female victims said they had reported the incident to police, compared with 7% of male victims.

The vast majority of victims (89%) said they reported the incidents to police to stop the violence and receive protection. About 49% said they did so out of a sense of duty, while 31% said they wanted their partner arrested and punished. The reasons for choosing to report were similar for both men and women. Of those who reported the victimization to the police, over 6 in 10 were satisfied with the response from police.

Note to readers

This is the 13th annual report on Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile produced by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics under the Federal Family Violence Initiative. It provides the most current data on the nature and extent of family violence in Canada, as well as trends over time, as part of the ongoing initiative to inform policy makers and the public about family violence issues.

This year, updated information is available on self-reported incidents of spousal victimization based on data from the 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization. This section examines the prevalence and nature of self-reported physical and sexual spousal violence in the provinces.

Among those who choose not to report incidents to police, 82% said they believed the incident was a personal matter that did not concern the police.

Almost two-thirds of spousal violence victims (63%) said they had been victimized more than once before they contacted the police.

Police-reported family violence

This report also contains three sections that use police-reported data to analyze other aspects of family violence: violence against children and youth; violence against seniors aged 65 and older; and family-related homicides.

In 2009, nearly 55,000 children and youth were victims of a sexual offence or physical assault. About 3 in 10 of these incidents were perpetrated by a family member.

Police reported more than 2,400 victims aged 65 and older of violent crime by a family member. They represented about one-third of all violent incidents committed against older adults.

Between 2000 and 2009, there were 738 spousal homicides. They accounted for 16% of all solved homicides and 47% of all family-related homicides.

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

The annual report Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile (85-224-X, free) is now available. The focus of this report is on self-reported incidents of spousal victimization from the 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization. In addition, using police-reported data, the report presents information on family violence against children and youth, family violence against seniors and family-related homicides.

From the Key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, 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.