The Daily
|
 In the news  Indicators  Releases by subject
 Special interest  Release schedule  Information

Experiences of violent victimization among persons with mental health-related disabilities in Canada, 2018

Released: 2022-01-26

In 2018, persons with mental health-related disabilities were three times more likely than those without disabilities to report that they had been physically or sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months. Persons with mental health-related disabilities were also more likely than those with disabilities not related to mental health and those without disabilities to report that they spoke to someone other than the police, or that they contacted or used victim services for help following an experience of violent victimization in the previous 12 months.

The Government of Canada is committed to achieving a high standard of accessibility as defined in the Standard on Web Accessibility and the Standard on Optimizing Websites and Applications for Mobile Devices. Please contact us if you have difficulty using our webpages, applications or device-based mobile applications, or to obtain alternative formats such as regular print, sign language, Braille or another appropriate format, including video relay service or message relay service.

Research has consistently shown that persons with disabilities are at greater risk of violent victimization, including acts committed by an intimate partner, than those without disabilities. However, the prevalence of violent victimization is especially high among those with mental health-related disabilities. While mental health-related disabilities may increase the likelihood of experiencing violence, they can also develop or worsen as a result of the trauma of violent victimization. Considering that over 2 million Canadians aged 15 years and older have a mental health-related disability, monitoring their experiences of violence is critical to developing policies and programs to address these interconnected issues.

In recognition of Bell Let's Talk Day, Statistics Canada is releasing a new infographic titled "Persons with mental health-related disabilities: Experiences of violent victimization in Canada, 2018," based on findings from the 2018 Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS). It is important to note that cross-sectional data such as those collected through the 2018 SSPPS cannot show whether incidents of violent victimization occurred as a result of, or prior to the development of mental health-related disabilities. However, findings presented here serve to underscore the complex relationship between mental health and violent victimization.

Almost 7 in 10 persons with mental health-related disabilities have been physically or sexually assaulted at least once since age 15

Including experiences of violence within intimate relationships, persons with mental health-related disabilities were much more likely than those with disabilities not related to mental health and those without disabilities to report that they had been physically or sexually assaulted at least once, since the age of 15 and/or in the 12 months preceding the survey in 2018.

Almost 7 in 10 (69%) persons with mental health-related disabilities reported that they had been physically or sexually assaulted at least once since the age of 15. By comparison, this was the case for almost half of those with disabilities not related to mental health (48%) and just over one third of those without disabilities (36%).

In the 12 months prior to the survey, 15% of persons with mental health-related disabilities reported that they had been physically or sexually assaulted—almost three times higher than the proportion of those with disabilities not related to mental health (6%) and three times higher than the proportion of those without disabilities (5%).

Among persons with mental health-related disabilities, women are more than twice as likely as men to experience sexual assault

Previous studies have noted that, in general, women are more likely than men to experience violent victimization in their lifetime, but this disparity is driven by a substantially higher prevalence of sexual assault experienced by women. A similar trend was also observed among persons with mental health-related disabilities. That is, women with mental health-related disabilities were more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to have been sexually assaulted, both since the age of 15 and in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Over half of women with mental health-related disabilities (55%) reported that they had been a victim of sexual assault at least once since age 15. This compares with 22% of men with mental health-related disabilities who reported the same. In contrast, men with mental health-related disabilities were more likely than women with mental health-related disabilities to have experienced physical assault since age 15 (64% vs. 56%).

The gender gap in victimization was similar in the 12 months prior to the survey, as women with mental health-related disabilities were still more than twice as likely to have experienced sexual assault as men with mental health-related disabilities (10% vs. 4%). However, men with mental health-related disabilities were more likely to report that they had been a victim of physical assault in the 12 months prior to the survey than their female counterparts (12% vs. 8%).

Persons with mental health-related disabilities are more likely to reach out for help for experiences of violent victimization

Following an incident of physical or sexual assault, talking about the experience with someone that the victim trusts can help them feel supported and dispel feelings of guilt or shame that often accompany violent victimization. In 2018, the SSPPS asked respondents who had been physically or sexually assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey whether they had contacted or used victim services (e.g., a crisis centre or help line, victim services or victim witness assistance program, a counsellor, psychologist, or social worker, a community, family, ethnic, or cultural centre, a shelter or transition house, a women's or men's centre, a senior's centre, a support group) or spoken to anyone other than the police (e.g., a family member, a friend or neighbour, a co-worker, a doctor or nurse, a lawyer, a priest, rabbi, imam, elder, or other spiritual advisor, or other) about the most serious incident of physical or sexual assault.

Talking to someone following an experience of violence was far more prevalent than contacting or using formal victim services, but in both cases, persons with mental health-related disabilities were more likely than those with disabilities not related to mental health and those without disabilities to reach out to such supports for help.

Almost one in five (18%) persons with mental health-related disabilities contacted or used victim services for help after being physically or sexually assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey. In comparison, around one in ten persons with disabilities not related to mental health (11%) and persons without disabilities (8%) did the same.

Persons with mental health-related disabilities (82%) were also more likely than those with disabilities not related to mental health (73%) and those without disabilities (73%) to report that they talked to someone other than the police following an experience of physical or sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey.

  Note to readers

This release is based on results from the 2018 Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS), which asked Canadians about their experiences of violent victimization (physical and sexual assault) both since age 15 and in the past 12 months. More detailed information was collected about the incidents if they occurred within the 12 months preceding the survey.

This release includes physical and sexual assault committed both within and outside of the context of an intimate partner relationship. Questions about the use of victim services and talking to someone other than the police were asked differently depending on the victim's relationship to the offender. For violence committed by someone other than an intimate partner, the questions referred to the most serious incident of physical or sexual assault experienced during the past 12 months. In contrast, for violence committed by an intimate partner, questions referred to the abusive or violent behaviour experienced during the past 12 months as a whole.

Physical assault: refers to being attacked (e.g., anything from being threatened, hit, slapped, pushed or grabbed, to being shot or beaten); or being threatened (to hit/attack, or with a weapon).

Sexual assault: refers to being touched against one's will in a sexual way (e.g., unwanted touching, grabbing, kissing or fondling); being forced into sexual activity by threats, being held down or hurt in some way; or being subjected to a sexual activity to which they were unable to consent (e.g., being drugged, intoxicated, manipulated or forced in other non-physical ways).

Persons with mental health-related disabilities: includes those who are sometimes, often or always limited in their daily activities by an emotional, psychological or mental health condition (e.g., anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, anorexia, etc.). It is important to note that the majority of those identified as having a mental health-related disability were also identified as having at least one other type of disability. Therefore, the data are based on the impact that all disability types these individuals with a mental health-related disability may have had.

Persons with disabilities not related to mental health: includes those who do not have a mental health-related disability, but who are sometimes, often or always limited in their daily activities by one or more of the following types of difficulties: seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain-related, learning, developmental, memory, or unknown.

The 2018 SSPPS included the Disability Screening Questions to identify persons with disabilities. While the questions are the same as those used in the Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), their application is slightly different, which means that results from the SSPPS and the CSD should not be compared. While official statistics on the prevalence of disability in Canada are generated from the CSD, SSPPS data are used in this release because they allow for an analysis of how disability and violent victimization intersect.

It is important to note that the 2018 SSPPS was designed to measure the experiences of Canadians in the general population, and as such did not collect information from persons residing in institutions, including hospitals, shelters and correctional facilities. This means that findings presented here may not be representative of all Canadians with mental health-related disabilities. Additionally, individuals with a disability related to mental health which has lasted less than six months and those who indicated that their conditions were managed through treatment to the degree that they no longer interfere with their daily lives were excluded.

For information on the methodology of the survey, see: Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces.

Products

The infographic "Persons with mental health-related disabilities: Experiences of violent victimization in Canada, 2018" is now available as part of the series Statistics Canada — Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M).

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; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: