Section 4: Police-reported family violence against children and youth
by Dyna Ibrahim and Maisie Karam
Forms of child maltreatment include a range of behaviors all with negative long and short term implications for the victim. Maltreatment can include physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence, exposure to intimate partner violence, and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power (World Health Organization 2014). There are numerous challenges in trying to estimate the prevalence of child maltreatment in Canada as many young victims are unaware that they are being victimized, do not know who to turn to, or are not able to report the victimization themselves. Research on victimization of children and youth is sparse, as there are not many sources of data for the victimization of children under the age of 15 years.
According to self-reported data from the 2014 General Social Survey on victimization, almost one third (32%) of Canadians 15 years of age and older in the provinces reported having experienced physical and/or sexual abuse as a child at the hands of a family or non-family member – representing just under 9 million people. Slightly more men (32%) than women (27%) reported having been abused as a child (Perreault 2015). These findings, along with analysis of how self-reported childhood maltreatment impacts various outcomes in adult life, will be presented in detail in future family violence reports.
Using data from the 2014 Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) and Homicide surveys, this section presents information on police-reported family violence against children and youth (under 18 years of age). The analysis examines the prevalence and characteristics of violent offences against children and youth where the perpetrator is a family member. The information provided includes: types of offence by age and gender of the victim, relationship to the perpetrator, level of injury and whether a weapon was present. Trend analysis of selected police-reported violent offences against children and youth is also presented to monitor changes over time.
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 comes 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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Three in five child and youth victims of police-reported family violence were victimized by a parent
- In 2014, there were about 53,600 child and youth victims (17 years of age and under) of violent crime. Children and youth represented 17% of all victims of police-reported violent crime in 2014 (Table 4.1).
- Among child and youth victims, approximately 16,300 (31%) were victims of family violence, perpetrated by a parent, sibling, extended family member or spouse. The majority of these victims (61%) were victimized by a parent. For the youngest victims of family violence (those under one year of age), a parent was most often the perpetrator (89%) (Table 4.2).
- Rates of family-related violence were highest for youth between the ages of 12 and 17, while very young children, under 1 year of age, had the lowest rate of police-reported family violence. However, many forms of child abuse of the youngest victims may go unreported for a variety of reasons (Table 4.3).
- In 2014, female children and youth were more likely to be victims of police-reported family violence than their male counterparts (274.4 per 100,000 population under 18 years of age and 189.7 per 100,000 population under 18, respectively) (Table 4.3).
- Risk of being a victim of family-related violence was highest at age 15 for both male (247.5 per 100,000 population) and female youth (534.6). However, females between the ages of 14 and 17 were twice as likely to be victimized as their male counterparts (Table 4.3).
Rate of police-reported sexual assault against female children and youth was four times that of males
- In 2014, physical assault was the most common type of police-reported family violence against children and youth (134.4 per 100,000 population under age 18), followed by sexual offences (73.9) (Table 4.4).
- While rates of physical assault against children and youth perpetrated by a family member were similar for males and females, rates of sexual assault against female children and youth were more than 4 times higher than their male counterparts (121.8 compared to 28.5, respectively) (Table 4.4).
- Kidnapping/abduction continued to be a relatively rare occurrence among police-reported incidents of family violence in 2014. Specifically, there were 387 child and youth victims of kidnapping and abduction (a rate of 5.6 per 100,000 population) (Table 4.4).
- Among the 316 children and youth victims of family-related homicides from 2004 to 2014, the most frequent causes of death were beating (25%), strangulation, suffocation or drowning (25%), and stabbing (17%). About half (51%) of child and youth victims of family-related homicide between 2004 and 2014 were under the age of 4 years (Table 4.5).
- The most common motive for family-related homicides against children and youth was frustration, anger or despair (62%). In almost one in ten family-related homicides against children and youth, the police were unable to report an apparent motive (9%) (Table 4.6).
Police-reported family violence against children and youth highest in Saskatchewan and lowest in Ontario
- As was the case for crime in general (Boyce 2015) in 2014, rates of family violence against children and youth in the territories tended to be higher than the provinces. Nunavut (1,420.5 per 100,000 population) had the highest rate of police-reported family violence, followed by the Northwest Territories (932.4) and Yukon (886.3). In the provinces, rates of police-reported family violence against children and youth were highest in Saskatchewan (461.4) and lowest in Ontario (161.8) (Table 4.7).
- Among the census metropolitan areas (CMAs), Saguenay reported the highest rate (531.5) of police-reported family violence against children and youth in 2014, while Ottawa and Guelph reported the lowest (95.9 and 96.4, respectively). In general, the rate of police-reported family violence against children and youth in non-CMAs (369.3) was twice that of the overall rate reported in the CMAs (181.7) (Table 4.8).
Female children and youth at a higher risk of family-related sexual assault
- From 2009 to 2014, level 1 (common) physical assault remained the most frequently-reported form of family violence offence against children and youth, despite a 16% decrease in rate recorded over this time period. Rates of common assault against female child and youth victims of family violence decreased by nearly 19% from 2009 to 2014, while rates for males declined by 13% (Table 4.9).
- Accounting for nearly all family-related sexual assaults against children and youth (99%), overall level 1 sexual assault against children and youth declined 14% from 2009. From 2009 to 2014, rates of level 1 sexual assault against children and youth were consistently more than 4 times higher among female victims (Table 4.9).
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Detailed data tables
Table 4.1 Victims of police-reported violent crime, by type of offence and age group of victim, Canada, 2014
Table 4.2 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of police-reported family violence, by accused-victim relationship and age group, Canada, 2014
Table 4.3 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of police-reported family violence, by sex and age of victim, Canada, 2014
Table 4.4 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of police-reported family violence, by sex of the victim and type of offence, Canada, 2014
Table 4.5 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of family-related homicides, by age group of the victim and cause of death, Canada, 2004 to 2014
Table 4.6 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of family-related homicides, by age group of the victim and motive, Canada, 2004 to 2014
Table 4.7 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and province and territory, 2014
Table 4.8 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and census metropolitan area, 2014
Table 4.9 Child and youth victims (0 to 17 years) of police-reported family violence for selected violent offences, by sex of victim, 2009 to 2014
Boyce, Jillian. 2015. “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
Perreault, Samuel. 2015. “Criminal victimization in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
World Health Organization. 2014 (December). “Child maltreatment”. Fact Sheet. No. 150. (accessed November 19, 2015).
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