Section 2: Police-reported family violence in Canada, 2014 - An overview
by Dyna Ibrahim
Family violence is an issue that impacts the victim, the family unit, and society as a whole. Long term effects for individuals such as risk of chronic illness, alcohol and drug use, job loss leading to economic vulnerability, academic performance, social integration as well as medical and social implications at the societal level, have all been linked to family violence (Department of Justice Canada n.d.; World Health Organization 2002; Violence Prevention Alliance 2012; Family Violence Initiative 2010; Wathen 2012). The Government of Canada, through the Family Violence Initiative, monitors family violence in an effort to prevent and respond to family violence in Canada (Family Violence Initiative 2010).
In the context of this section, ‘family’ refers to relationships defined through blood, marriage, common-law partnership, foster care, or adoption; ‘family violence’ refers to violent Criminal Code offences that come to the attention of police, where the perpetrator is a family member. Although the family violence definition used in this report does not include dating relationships, the report does include dating relationships in the results presented in the “Police-reported intimate partner violence” section where violence against dating partners is included in the analysis. Of note, many studies have found a significant number of similarities between violence against dating partners and spousal violence (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control 2014; Adam et al. 2011).
Using 2014 police-reported data from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) and Homicide surveys, this overview section provides national and provincial key findings on the nature and prevalence of police-reported family violence in Canada, the types of offences committed by family members, the relationship between the victim and perpetrator, as well as socio-demographic risk factors for family violence such as sex and age. Highlights in this section provide a general overview of family violence, as well as key findings related to victim characteristics that are covered in the remainder of this report, namely, intimate partners, children and youth, as well as seniors.
This section covers all types of violent Criminal Code offences which have come to the attention of police in 2014, ranging from uttering threats and physical and sexual violence to homicide. Non-violent crimes such as theft and fraud, all types of abuse which were not substantiated by police, as well as conduct which is not covered by the Criminal Code, are not included in this section. Additionally, analysis based on Homicide Survey data excludes homicides which have not been solved by police. Although providing important contextual information on incidents of family violence which come to the attention of police, this section may underestimate the true extent of family violence in Canada.
Unless otherwise specified, all rates shown in this section are per 100,000 population. Information on data sources and survey methodology along with definitions can be found in the ‘Survey description’ section.
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Females twice as likely as males to be victims of police-reported family violence
- In 2014, over one quarter (26%) of all victims of police-reported violent crime were victimized by a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, or another immediate or extended family member. This represents more than 85,000 victims of family violence (Table 2.1).
- Similar to previous years, close to seven in ten victims of family violence reported in 2014 were females (68%), either young girls or women (Table 2.1).
- Just under half (48%) of victims of police-reported family violence were victimized by a spouse or an ex-spouse, while nearly one in five were victimized by a parent (18%) (Table 2.1).
- Female victims of family violence (56%) were more likely to be victimized by a spouse than male victims (31%). Among male victims however, a parent (24%) or an extended family member (18%) was more likely to be the perpetrator when compared to female victims (15% and 11%, respectively) (Table 2.1).
- Regardless of age, females were at a greater risk of family violence than males. The rate of family violence against females (327.6 per 100,000 population) was double that of males (157.7). The gap between male and female rates of family violence increased with age until age 30 to 34 years, at which point the difference was greatest, with rates of family violence against females (579.4) more than three times that of males (192.3). Rates of police-reported family violence among female victims are largely attributable to spousal violence. Female victims of police-reported family violence were most commonly victimized by a spouse (56%) rather than by other family members (Table 2.2).
Nearly three-quarters of victims of police-reported family violence were physically assaulted
- Most victims of police-reported family violence were victims of physical assault (73%). Among these victims, four out of five were victims of common (level 1) assault (80%). Combined, uttering threats (11%) and sexual offences (8%) were experienced by nearly one in five victims of police-reported family violence in 2014 (Table 2.3).
- In 2014, sexual offences (10%) and criminal harassment (5%) were more than twice as common among female victims of police-reported family violence as male victims (4% and 2%, respectively). Major physical assault (levels 2 and 3) was more common among male victims of police-reported family violence than female victims (19% and 11% respectively) (Table 2.3).
Saskatchewan reports the highest rate of family violence among the provinces
- Similar to the overall crime rate (Boyce 2015), the territories had the highest rates of police-reported family violence. Specifically, Nunavut (2,491.0 per 100,000 population) recorded the highest rate of family violence, followed by Northwest Territories (1,897.1) and Yukon (911.6) (Table 2.4).
- Among Canada’s provinces, Saskatchewan (486.7 per 100,000 population) had the highest rate of police-reported family violence, double the national rate (243.1). Ontario (154.8) and Prince Edward Island (157.1), in comparison, recorded the lowest rates of family violence (Table 2.4).
- According to police-reported data, in 2014, the rate of family-related physical and sexual assault declined across Canada by 3% between 2013 and 2014. Prince Edward Island had the largest year-over-year decline of 18%, followed by New Brunswick (-9%) and British Columbia (-9%) (Table 2.5).
- Canadians living in census metropolitan areas (CMAs) were generally at lower risk of police-reported family violence (191.4) than those living in non-CMAs (365.3). Among individual CMAs in 2014, Saguenay (342.8) had the highest rate of police-reported family violence, followed by Gatineau (327.2), Thunder Bay (315.6), and Saint John (314.4). Similar to the previous year, the Ontario CMAs of Ottawa (93.9), St. Catharines–Niagara (110.5), London (116.5) and Guelph (122.3) were among the CMAs that recorded the lowest rates of police-reported family violence (Table 2.6).
Rate of family-related homicide at its lowest in three decades
- From 2009 to 2014, regardless of the type of relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, the rate of police-reported family violence continuously declined, dropping 16% from a rate of 227.0 per 100,000 population in 2009 to 191.2 in 2014 (Table 2.7).
- In 2014, police data recorded the lowest family-related homicide rate over the past three decades (3.7 per 1 million population). However, women continued to be at a higher risk of family-related homicide (4.8) than men (2.6) (Table 2.8).
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Detailed data tables
Table 2.1 Victims of police-reported violent crime, by sex of victim and relationship of accused to victim, Canada, 2014
Table 2.2 Rate of police-reported family violence, by sex and age group of victim, Canada, 2014
Table 2.3 Victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and type of offence, Canada, 2014
Table 2.4 Rate of police-reported family violence, by province and territory, 2013 to 2014
Table 2.5 Victims of police-reported family violence by physical and sexual assault and province and territory, 2014
Table 2.6 Victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and census metropolitan area, 2014
Table 2.7 Victims of selected police-reported offences against family members, Canada, 2009 to 2014
Table 2.8 Rates of homicides committed by family members, by sex of victim, Canada, 1984 to 2014
Adam, Emma K., Laura Chyu, Lindsay T. Hoyt, Leah Doane, Johanne Boisjoly, Greg J. Duncan, P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale and Thomas W. McDade. 2011. “Adverse adolescent relationship histories and young adult health: Cumulative effects of loneliness, low parent support, relationship instability, intimate partner violence, and loss.” Journal of Adolescent Health. Vol. 49, no. 3. p. 278-286.
Boyce, Jillian. 2015. “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
Department of Justice Canada. n.d. “About family violence.” Family Violence. Last updated February 5, 2013. (accessed December 10, 2015).
Family Violence Initiative. 2010. Family Violence Initiative Performance Report for April 2004 to March 2008. National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Public Health Agency of Canada. (accessed November 19, 2015).
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2014. “Understanding teen dating violence.” Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (accessed November 19, 2015).
Violence Prevention Alliance. 2012. Global Campaign for Violence Prevention: Plan of Action for 2012-2020. World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland. (accessed November 19, 2015).
Wathen, N. 2012. Health Impacts of Violent Victimization on Women and their Children. Department of Justice Canada Catalogue no. J2-377/2013E-PDF. (accessed November 19, 2015).
World Health Organization. 2002. World Report on Violence and Health: Summary. World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland. (accessed November 19, 2015).