Section 5: Police-reported family violence against seniors
by Dyna Ibrahim
According to 2015 population estimates, seniors 65 years of age and older represent approximately 16% of the total population (Statistics Canada 2011). With the aging of the Canadian population (Milan 2011), increasing concerns regarding the well-being of seniors arise. More specifically, concerns regarding the health care needs of seniors and an increase in their social, physical, and mental vulnerability lead to a need to better understand and monitor crime and violence against seniors in Canada.
This section uses data from Statistics Canada’s 2014 Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) and Homicide surveys to examine the extent to which Canadian seniors aged 65 years and overNote 1 were the victims of violent crime committed by a family member. The section presents the key findings of the prevalence and nature of family violence committed against seniors, including age and gender of victims, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, the types of violence perpetrated, the weapons involved, any injuries that were sustained and how these crimes were cleared by police. Geographical analysis of the prevalence of family violence against seniors is also presented, along with trend analysis.
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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Victim’s grown child most often the perpetrator of police-reported violence against seniors
- In 2014, more than 9,200 people 65 years and older were victims of police-reported violent crime in Canada, representing nearly 3% of all victims of violent crime reported to police (Table 5.1).
- Nearly 4% of victims of police-reported family violence were 65 years or older. A family member was the perpetrator for more than one third of senior victims (34%), a rate of 59.6 per 100,000 seniors (Table 5.1).
- More than half (59%) of senior victims of family violence were women, with a rate 24% higher than that of senior men (65.4 vs. 52.8 per 100,000 seniors) (Table 5.1).
- Overall, senior victims of police-reported family violence were most likely to have been victimized by a grown child (33%) or a spouse (28%) (Table 5.1).
- Among senior women who were victims of family violence, one in three (33%) was victimized by her spouse, followed closely by the victims’ grown child (31%). Among male senior victims of family violence, the victims’ grown child (35%) was the most common perpetrator (Table 5.1).
Physical assault most common form of police-reported family violence against seniors
- According to police-reported data, common assault was the most frequently reported form of family violence against seniors in 2014. This type of violation was experienced by more than half (55%) of seniors victimized by a family member (Table 5.2).
- According to police-reported data, most senior victims of family violence were victimized using physical force (60%) or threats (23%). A smaller proportion of senior victims of police-reported family violence were victimized with a weapon present, most commonly a knife (5%). A firearm (1%) was the least likely weapon present (Table 5.3).
- In 2014, two out of five senior victims of police-reported family violence sustained injuries (40%), of which most (94%) were minor physical injuries not requiring professional medical treatment. Although not as common, major physical injuries which required professional medical help or which led to death, were more prevalent among senior women victimized by a family member (3%) compared to senior men (2%) (Table 5.4).
- Among senior victims of police-reported family violence, more than half (54%) of incidents were clearedNote 2 by the laying or recommendation of a charge against the accused. For another 30% of senior victims, incidents of family violence were cleared by other means, for example request by complainant for charges not be laid (18%). For the remaining 16% of senior victims, the incidents of family violence were not cleared due to insufficient evidence to accuse the perpetrator of the crime (Table 5.5).
Alberta and Saskatchewan report the highest rates of police-reported family violence against seniors
- Similar to overall family violence, the territories had the highest rate of police-reported family violence against seniors in Canada. Nunavut (2,100.5 per 100,000 seniors) was the territory with the highest rate of family violence against seniors, at a rate 35 times the national level (59.6), followed by the Northwest Territories (1,466.4) and Yukon (159.7). Among the provinces, Alberta (84.7) and Saskatchewan (81.6) had the highest rates of family violence against seniors, while Ontario (46.2) and Prince Edward Island (47.9) had the lowest (Table 5.6).
- While rates of family violence against senior women and senior men were generally similar across most of the provinces, in Newfoundland and Labrador senior women were twice as likely to have been a victim of family violence compared to senior men (89.8 vs. 42.4). In contrast, rates of family violence among senior men were slightly higher than those of senior women in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Nunavut (Table 5.6).
- Similar to overall rates of police-reported family violence, seniors living in Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) were at a lower risk of family violence than those living in non-CMAs. The rate of family violence against seniors living outside of CMAs (75.3) was 1.5 times higher than the rate for those living in CMAs (51.1) (Table 5.7).
- Among the CMAs, Abbotsford-Mission (71.0 per 100,000 seniors) had the highest rate of police-reported family violence against seniors in 2014, followed by Kelowna (68.5), Edmonton (68.2), and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (68.1). The lowest rate was recorded in Sherbrooke (23.2) followed by the Ontario CMAs of Greater Sudbury (26.0), London (26.3) and St. Catharines-Niagara (27.0), all at rates less than half the national level (Table 5.7).
- Rates of family violence against seniors were higher for women than men across most of the CMAs, with the exception of Gatineau, Hamilton, Victoria, Saskatoon, Trois-Rivières, Ottawa, London, and Greater Sudbury, where rates of family violence against seniors were slightly higher among men (Table 5.7).
Family-related homicides against seniors most often motivated by frustration, anger or despair or arguments, quarrels
- In 2014, police-reported physical assault was the most common form of family violence against seniors, at a rate of 41.1 per 100,000 seniors. For female senior victims, the rate of family-related physical assault increased by 9% from 2009 to a rate of 44.4 in 2014. The rate of physical assault against senior men at the hands of a family member increased by 2% from 2009 to a rate of 37.1 in 2014 (Table 5.8).
- According to police records, at 3.4 per 1 million seniors, the rate of family-related homicide against seniors in 2014 was nearly half the rate reported three decades ago. With the exception of a few spikes, the rate of senior homicide by a family member has generally been on a downward trend from 6.2 per 1 million in 1984, to 3.4 per 1 million in 2014 (Table 5.9).
- According to police records from more recent years, between 2004 and 2014, there were a total of 180 senior victims of family-related homicides. Half of these victims were killed by their grown child, while a further 32% were killed by their spouse (Table 5.10).
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) of senior victims of family-related homicides between 2004 and 2014 were women. Among female victims, a spouse was most often the perpetrator (47%) compared to male victims (5%), while among male victims, the victim’s grown child was most often the perpetrator (77%) compared to 35% of female victims (Table 5.10).
- Over the past decade, the most commonly reported motives in family-related homicides against seniors included feelings of frustration, anger or despair (34%) and as the result of an argument or quarrel (33%) (Table 5.11).
- Family-related homicide against seniors motivated by feelings of frustration, anger or despair were more common among female victims (41%) than male victims (22%), while an argument or a quarrel was more often the motive for male victims (43%) than female victims (27%) (Table 5.11).
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Detailed data tables
Table 5.1 Senior victims of police-reported violent crime, by sex of victim and accused-victim relationship, Canada, 2014
Table 5.2 Senior victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and type of offence, Canada, 2014
Table 5.3 Senior victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and type of weapon present, Canada, 2014
Table 5.4 Senior victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and level of injury, Canada, 2014
Table 5.5 Senior victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and type of clearance status, Canada, 2014
Table 5.6 Senior victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and province and territory, 2014
Table 5.7 Senior victims of police-reported family violence, by sex of victim and census metropolitan area, 2014
Table 5.8 Senior victims of police-reported physical assault by a family member, by sex of victim, Canada, 2009 to 2014
Table 5.9 Senior victims of family-related homicide, by sex of victim, Canada, 1984 to 2014
Table 5.10 Senior victims of family-related homicide, by relationship of accused to victim, Canada, 2004 to 2014
Table 5.11 Senior victims of family-related homicide, by sex of victim and type of motive, Canada, 2004 to 2014
Milan, Anne. 2011. “Age and sex structure: Canada, provinces and territories, 2010.” Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 91-209-X.
Statistics Canada. 2011. Table 051-0001 – Estimates of Population, by Age Group and Sex for July 1, Canada, Province and Territories, Annual (persons unless otherwise noted). CANSIM (database). (accessed November 19, 2015).
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