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Police-reported violence involving same-sex intimate partners in Canada

Released: 2019-03-20

There were 651,484 police-reported incidents of intimate partner violence (IPV) in Canada from 2009 to 2017. Approximately 3% of these incidents involved same-sex intimate partners.

Males accounted for a greater proportion of victims of same-sex IPV, with more than half (55%) of police-reported incidents of same-sex IPV involving male partners. In contrast, women were overrepresented as victims of police-reported opposite-sex IPV (82% of all opposite-sex IPV victims from 2009 to 2017).

An analysis of violence among current or former same-sex intimate partners was released today in the Juristat article "Police-reported violence among same-sex intimate partners in Canada, 2009 to 2017." This article uses data reported by police services to examine the nature of violent crime that takes place within same-sex intimate relationships—that is, spousal, boyfriend, girlfriend and other intimate relationships.

Research has shown that victims of same-sex IPV face unique barriers that may affect whether they report their victimization to police or seek help. Some of these barriers include fear of self-disclosure, uncertainties about other people's homophobic reactions, and prior experiences of discrimination or harassment. The analysis of violent incidents involving same-sex partners presented in this article broadens the scope of research on IPV and provides additional information to support the development of more inclusive prevention and response programs.

More than half of incidents are between dating partners

Of the 22,323 same-sex IPV incidents reported by police from 2009 to 2017, more than half (55%) involved current or former boyfriends and girlfriends, 38% involved current or former spousal partners and 8% involved individuals in other same-sex intimate relationships, such as brief intimate relationships.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Incidents of police-reported same-sex intimate partner violence, by sex and type of relationship, Canada, 2009 to 2017
Incidents of police-reported same-sex intimate partner violence, by sex and type of relationship, Canada, 2009 to 2017

Crimes reported against males in same-sex relationships more violent than in opposite-sex relationships

Police-reported IPV in male same-sex relationships was generally more violent than IPV in opposite-sex relationships involving male perpetrators. Conversely, IPV among female same-sex couples was generally less violent compared with IPV in opposite-sex relationships involving female perpetrators.

For example, major assault—which comprises more serious forms of assault involving the use of a weapon, causing bodily harm, or endangering the life of the victim—was more commonly reported in same-sex IPV incidents involving male partners (18%) than in incidents where a male victimized a female partner (12%). Similarly, men accused of violence in same-sex relationships more commonly used weapons (17%), such as a knife, or a club or another blunt instrument, than males accused of violence against a female partner (10%).

In contrast, 12% of females in same-sex IPV incidents were accused of major assault or in incidents where a weapon was present, which is about half the proportion of females in opposite-sex IPV incidents who were accused of major assault (22%) or involved in an incident where a weapon was involved (24%).

Charges laid less often in same-sex IPV incidents

Across Canada, all police jurisdictions support a pro-charging policy on intimate partner violence. As such, police-reported IPV incidents generally have higher charge rates compared with other crimes. However, from 2009 to 2017, the proportion of police-reported same-sex IPV incidents resulting in charges (65%) was lower than the proportion for opposite-sex IPV incidents (82%), regardless of sex.

While male same-sex IPV incidents generally involved more violent crime compared with male–female partner victimization, males accused in same-sex IPV incidents (68%) were less often charged than males accused of violence against their female partner (84%). Similarly, violence involving same-sex female couples less often resulted in charges being laid (61%) compared with incidents where a female victimized a male partner (71%).

The lower proportion of same-sex IPV resulting in charges are partly explained by victims requesting that no further action be taken against the accused. About 2 in 10 victims of male (19%) and female (21%) same-sex IPV requested that no further action be taken against the accused, compared with 12% of male and 7% of female victims of opposite-sex IPV.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Incidents of police-reported intimate partner violence, by sex of victim, clearance status, and same-/opposite-sex status, Canada, 2009 to 2017
Incidents of police-reported intimate partner violence, by sex of victim, clearance status, and same-/opposite-sex status, Canada, 2009 to 2017 

Victims of same-sex IPV in rural areas more often request no further action against accused

Same-sex IPV accounted for similar proportions of all police-reported IPV in both rural and urban areas (from 3% to 4%).

Consistent with general police-reported crime trends, same-sex IPV incidents that occurred in rural areas less often resulted in charges being laid compared with incidents in urban areas. Just over half (51%) of same-sex IPV reported in rural areas resulted in the laying of a charge against the accused, compared with 70% of incidents reported in urban areas. A much larger proportion of same-sex IPV victims in rural areas (35%) requested that no further action be taken against the accused than in urban areas (15%).

Males and females accused in same-sex IPV incidents in rural areas were charged in equal proportions (51% each), but this was not the case in urban areas. Police-reported same-sex IPV incidents involving males in urban areas more often resulted in the laying of a charge (73%), compared with same-sex incidents involving females (65%).

Chart 3  Chart 3: Incidents of police-reported same-sex intimate partner violence, by sex of victim, clearance status, and urban/rural police service, Canada, 2009 to 2017
Incidents of police-reported same-sex intimate partner violence, by sex of victim, clearance status, and urban/rural police service, Canada, 2009 to 2017

  Note to readers

This article uses data from the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey Trend Database to pool incidents of violence among same-sex intimate partners that came to the attention of Canadian police services from 2009 to 2017.

This article defines same-sex intimate partner violence (IPV) as police-reported incidents of violent Criminal Code offences committed by individuals of the same sex as their victim, and who were reported as being the current or former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or other intimate partner of the victim. Only incidents that involved one victim and one accused person are included.

One incident can involve multiple offences. To ensure data comparability, offence types are presented based on the most serious offence in the incident as determined by standard classification rules used by all police services.

Incidents where the victim or complainant requested that no further action be taken against the accused include situations where an accused person was known and sufficient evidence was obtained to support the laying of a charge, but where the victim/complainant refused to proceed with charges. As a result, police used discretion and did not lay or recommend a charge.

Definitions

Spouse: Current husband or wife through marriage or common-law, and former husband or wife, where the couple was separated or divorced at the time of the incident.

Boyfriend or girlfriend: Current or former boyfriends or girlfriends with whom there is an intimate relationship, including people who are dating and those who are living together but may not be identified as common-law.

Other intimate partner: A person with whom there is a sexual relationship or a mutual sexual attraction but to which none of the above relationship options apply. For example, a "one-night stand" or a brief sexual relationship.

Urban areas are police services where the majority of the population they serve lives within a census metropolitan area (CMA) or census agglomeration (CA). Rural areas are those where the majority of the population served lives outside of a CMA or CA.

Products

The article "Police-reported violence among same-sex intimate partners in Canada, 2009 to 2017" is now available as part of the publication Juristat (Catalogue number85-002-X).

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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