Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends: Highlights

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Edited by Maire Sinha

Section 1
Prevalence and severity of violence against women

Police-reported violence against women

  • According to police-reported data, about 173,600 women aged 15 years and older were victims of violent crime in 2011. This translates into a rate of 1,207 female victims for every 100,000 women in the population, slightly higher than the rate for men (1,151).
  • Some forms of violence against women have decreased in recent years. Data from the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting trend file show a decrease in police-reported attempted murders and physical assaults against women between 2009 and 2011. However, the rate of police-reported sexual assaults against women increased in 2010 and remained stable in 2011. Following nearly three decades of decline, the rate of homicide against women has been relatively stable over the past decade, according to data from the Homicide Survey.
  • In 2011, the five most common violent offences committed against women were common assault (49%), uttering threats (13%), serious assault (10%), sexual assault level I (7%), and criminal harassment (7%). With the exception of sexual assault and criminal harassment, these were also the most frequently occurring offences against men. Women were eleven times more likely than men to be a victim of sexual offences and three times as likely to be the victim of criminal harassment (stalking).
  • Overall, men were responsible for 83% of police-reported violence committed against women. Most commonly, the accused was the woman's intimate partner (includes both spousal and dating) (45%), followed by acquaintances or friends (27%), strangers (16%) and non-spousal family members (12%). This contrasts violent crimes against men, where intimate partners were among the least common perpetrators (12%).
  • Intimate partner violence, which was nearly four times higher for women, was characterized by physical assaults and the use of physical force rather than weapons. About half (51%) of female victims of intimate partner violence suffered some type of injury.

Self-reported violence against women

  • According to victimization data, rates of self-reported violent victimization against women have been stable between 1999 and 2009. Among the three types of violent victimization measured by the General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization, robbery was the only type against women to have increased since 1999.
  • While women and men self-report similar rates of spousal violence, women's experiences are different from men. Women are more likely than men to experience the most severe forms of self-reported spousal victimization, such as multiple victimizations and incidents with physical injuries.
  • When examining self-reported spousal violence, there has been a significant decline in spousal violence against women since 1999, mainly attributable to a decrease in violence involving previous spouses.

Section 2
Risk factors of violence against women

  • Based on both police-reported and self-reported victimization data, being young was a consistent risk factor for violence against women. According to these data, risk of violence decreases with increasing age.
  • Data from the Homicide Survey indicate that Aboriginal women were disproportionally represented as homicide victims. Similarly, victimization data indicate that Aboriginal women have higher rates of self-reported spousal and non-spousal violence.
  • Victimization data also suggest that certain factors are associated with the risk of violent victimization for women, even when other factors are taken into account. For spousal violence, these factors include being young, having an activity limitation and being emotionally and/or financially abused by a spouse.
  • Women most at risk of non-spousal violence included those who were young, participated in many evening activities, were single, used drugs, identified as an Aboriginal person and lived in a community with social disorder, such as vandalism, noisy neighbours, and people using or dealing drugs.

Section 3
Impacts of violence against women

  • Women generally have higher levels of fear of crime compared to men. According to victimization data, this fear was heightened when women had been the victim of non-spousal violence.
  • Daily stress levels were elevated when women had reported being violently victimized in the preceding 12 months. Over half (53%) of women victimized by a spouse stated that most of their days were "quite a bit or extremely stressful", significantly higher than the proportion of women victimized by someone else (41%) and the proportion of women not victimized (23%).
  • More than one-quarter of spousal victims (27%) and non-spousal victims (26%) used medication to cope with depression, to calm them down or to help them sleep. This was significantly higher than the proportion of women who were not violently victimized (18%).
  • Emotional impacts of violent victimization were more pronounced for women than men. Female victims of spousal violence were seven times more likely as male spousal victims to be fearful (27% versus 4%ENote 1), three times as likely to be depressed or anxious (23% versus 7%E), and twice as likely to be angry (35% versus 18%). These reactions to spousal violence generally parallel those for non-spousal violence.
  • Female victims of spousal violence were twice as likely as male victims to be physically injured, three times as likely to experience disruptions to their daily lives, and almost seven times as likely to fear for their life. These gender differences were not evident for non-spousal violence, with the exception of finding it difficult or impossible to carry out everyday activities.

Section 4
Responses to violence against women

  • According to victimization data, less than one-third (30%) of female victims of spousal violence stated that the incident came to the attention of police, down from 36% in 2004. No change was recorded in the levels of reporting to police for non-spousal violence against women (28%).
  • The increased seriousness or severity of violence heightens the likelihood of police involvement for spousal violence incidents against women. Reporting to police was higher among those female spousal victims who sustained physical injury, who feared for their lives and who suffered the greatest number of spousal violence incidents.
  • Certain types of spousal violence were more likely to come to the attention of police, including incidents where the woman was sexually assaulted (53%) or beaten, choked or had a weapon used against them (60%). By contrast, sexual assaults perpetrated by someone other than a spouse were least likely to come to the attention of police. Nine in ten non-spousal sexual assaults were never reported to police.
  • According to police-reported data, 76% of violent incidents against women reported to and substantiated by police were solved. Of these, about seven in ten (71%) resulted in a charge being laid or recommended. Spousal and dating violence against women were most likely to result in criminal charges (84% and 83%), followed by stranger perpetrated violence (73%).
  • Women also turned to other sources of support beyond police. According to the Transition Home Survey (THS), there were 4,645 women residing in shelters across Canada on the snapshot day (April 15th, 2010), most of whom were escaping abuse (71%).


  1. This Juristat uses the coefficient of variation (CV) as a measure of the sampling error. An estimate that has a CV between 16.6% and 33.3% should be used with caution and the symbol 'E' is referenced with the estimate.
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