Violent victimization of women with disabilities, 2014

by Adam Cotter

Release date: March 15, 2018

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Highlights

  • According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, women with a disability were twice as likely as women who did not have a disability to have been a victim of violent crime. A similar trend was evident among men.
  • Women with a disability were nearly twice as likely as women without a disability to have been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months.
  • Among victims of violent crime, women with a disability were almost twice as likely as women without one to have been victimized more than once in the 12 months preceding the survey (36% versus 20%).
  • The rate of violent victimization among women and men with a cognitive disability or a mental health‑related disability was approximately four times higher than among those who did not have a disability. Among women and men with a sensory or physical disability, the rate of violent victimization was roughly twice as high as among those who did not have a disability.
  • Victims of violent crime who had a disability were more likely to make use of victims' services. Six in ten (61%) victims of violent crime who turned to formal support services in 2014 had a disability. Women with a disability were more likely than their male counterparts to contact or use any services.
  • Canadians with a disability were more likely to be victimized in their own home, as close to one‑third (30%) of violent incidents against a person with a disability occurred in their private residence (compared to 17% of incidents where the victim did not have a disability).
  • Four in ten (40%) Canadians with a disability at the time of the survey were physically and/or sexually abused during their childhood, compared to about one‑quarter (27%) of those who did not have a disability.
  • About one‑quarter of women with a cognitive disability (24%) or a mental health‑related disability (26%) were sexually abused by an adult before they were 15 years of age.
  • Almost half (46%) of all Canadian women who reported having ever experienced homelessness had a disability, as did nearly four in ten (37%) men.
  • Overall, more than one in five Canadians with a mental health‑related disability (22% of women and 25% of men) or a cognitive disability (22% of women and 23% of men) indicated that they had experienced homelessness at some point in their life.
  • More than one in five (23%) women with a disability experienced emotional, financial, physical or sexual violence or abuse committed by a current or former partner in the past 5 years, a similar proportion as men with a disability (22%). For both women and men, this was roughly two times higher when compared to those without a disability.
  • Among victims of spousal violence with a disability, women were more likely than men to have experienced the most serious forms of spousal violence (39% versus 16%E), to be physically injured due to the violence (46% versus 29%E), to fear for their life (38% versus 14%E), and to contact or use formal support services following the violence (71% versus 29%E).

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Research to date has found that both women and men with a disability are at a higher risk of emotional, physical, and sexual violence compared to people who do not have a disability (Curry et al. 2001; Harpur and Douglas 2014; Hughes et al. 2012; Jones et al. 2012; Martin et al. 2006; Milberger et al. 2003; Mitra et al. 2011; Olofsson et al. 2015; Platt et al. 2017). Canada, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has committed to help ensure Canadians with a disability have freedom from exploitation, violence, and abuse (Government of Canada 2014).

Recent Canadian research has shown that disability of any type is associated with higher rates of violent victimization (Perreault 2015; Burczycka 2016; Burczycka 2018; Conroy and Cotter 2017). Using data from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians' Safety (Victimization), this report builds on these findings with a specific focus on the experiences and perceptions of the non‑institutionalized population with disabilities in Canada (see Text box 1), and with analysis, wherever possible, on the occurrence and co‑occurrence of disability across four categories: sensory (hearing or visual); physical (mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain); cognitive (learning, developmental, and memory); and mental health‑related disability.

This Juristat article profiles self‑reported violent victimization in the past 12 months among Canadians 15 years of age and older with a disability, using data from the GSS. In addition, various lifetime experiences related to victimization—including abuse and maltreatment during childhood and past experiences of homelessness—are explored. This report adopts a gender‑based approach to analysis, contextualizing results by making comparisons between women and men.

Women with disabilities and men with disabilities are not homogenous groups; in addition to varying types and severity of disability, numerous other sociodemographic characteristics can impact the risk of violent victimization. Recognizing the intersection of numerous characteristics is important to better understand the different gendered experiences of violent victimization generally, and in the case of people with disabilities as well (Foster and Sandel 2010; Nosek et al. 2006). As such, in addition to sex and disability, additional characteristics and populations will be explored where possible.

The production of this analytical report was supported by funding from Status of Women Canada as part of Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender‑Based Violence.

Women with disabilities overrepresented as victims of self‑reported violent crime

According to the latest Canadian Survey on Disability (2012), an estimated 3.8 million people, or 13.7% of Canadians 15 years of age and older, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability related to hearing, vision, pain, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, learning, developmental, memory, or mental or psychological health. Women have a higher prevalence of disability than men (14.9% and 12.5%, respectively).Note 

In 2014, according to the General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians' Safety (Victimization), four in ten (39%) incidents of self‑reported violent crime—that is, sexual assault, robbery, or physical assault—involved a victim with a disability. The overrepresentation of persons with a disability among victims of violent crime was more notable for women: in 45% of all incidents with a female victim, the victim had a disability. In contrast, in 33% of incidents involving male victims, the victim had a disability.

Among Canadians with a disability, the rate of violent victimization in the 12 months preceding the survey was about twice as high when compared to those who did not report a disability (Table 1).Note  There were 137 incidents of violent victimization for every 1,000 women 15 years of age and older with a disability, compared to 65 incidents per 1,000 women without a disability. Similarly, the rate for men with a disability was close to double that of men who did not have a disability (105 versus 58) (Chart 1).

Chart 1 Self-reported violent victimization, by type of victimization and presence of disability, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Type of victimization, Women, Men, Sexual assault, Robbery, Physical assault and Total violent victimization, calculated using rate per 1,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of victimization
Women Men
Sexual assault Robbery Physical assault Total violent victimization Sexual assault Robbery Physical assault Total violent victimization
rate per 1,000 population
Has a disability 56Note * 8Note E: Use with caution 72Note * 137Note * Note F: too unreliable to be published 15Note E: Use with caution 80Note * 105Note *
Does not have a disabilityData table Note  29Note ** 4Note E: Use with caution 32Note ** 65 4Note E: Use with caution 6Note E: Use with caution 48 58

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Identifying disability in the General Social Survey

The General Social Survey identified persons with disability using the short Disability Screening Questions (DSQ) module, which classifies a respondent as having a disability if their daily activities are sometimes, often, or always limited by difficulties related to hearing, vision, pain, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, learning, developmental, memory, or mental or psychological health. Respondents are asked a minimum of 5 questions and an average of 8 questions (Grondin 2016).

The DSQ is based on the social model of disability. According to this model, disability includes both the presence of impairment but also the various physical, social, and environmental conditions which can create barriers and prevent universal access to spaces, services, institutions, work, education, or communications, among other aspects of daily life (Goering 2015; Hollomotz 2009). As set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability, a person with a disability "…is only limited in their ability to participate in society as a result of their interaction with barriers that any society permits to exist, which may be physical obstacles, policies, legislation, or discriminatory behaviour and prejudicial attitudes" (Walker 2013). As these elements can vary widely from place to place, the environment in which a person lives can have a considerable impact on their lived experience with disability.

Impact of target population

Of note, the General Social Survey excludes full‑time residents of institutions, such as prisons, residential care facilities, shelters, and other collective dwellings from its sampling frame. According to the 2016 Census of Population, there were just over 509,000 persons living in a healthcare or related facility.Note  While not all persons living in such facilities have a disability, many of these collective dwellings are either specifically geared towards persons with a disability or are aimed at parts of the population who are more likely to be persons with a disability (i.e., older Canadians). This is therefore a critical gap to highlight as it means that findings may not be representative of the entire Canadian population with a disability and, among other possible limitations, may be excluding those with relatively more severe disability.

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Women with a disability more likely to be victims of sexual assault

Sexual assault is a particularly gendered crime; according to both self‑reported and police‑reported data, the large majority of victims are women (Conroy and Cotter 2017; Rotenberg 2017). This trend is also evident when looking at the population with a disability, as nearly nine in ten (88%) victims of sexual assault who had a disability were women. Women with a disability (56 incidents per 1,000 population) were close to twice as likely as women without a disability (29 per 1,000) and about 14 times more likely than men without a disability (4E per 1,000) to have been sexually assaulted (Table 1).Note 

The increased prevalence of sexual assault among women with a disability was the result of considerably higher rates among those who reported a mental health‑related disability (131E per 1,000) or a cognitive disability (121E per 1,000). There was no difference in the rate of self‑reported sexual assault between women with a physical disability and women without a disability (34E and 29 incidents per 1,000 population, respectively).Note 

Some research notes that women with disabilities are subject to various, sometimes contradictory, social and legal myths and attitudes when it comes to their sexuality. These range from the perception that women with disabilities are hypersexual and sexually deviant, to a tendency to treat women with disabilities as children, or a view that women with disabilities are entirely non‑sexual (Benedet and Grant 2014; Curry et al. 2001). Attitudes such as these can both place women with disabilities at a higher risk of sexual assault, and also serve to minimize or ignore the consequences or impacts of victimization for women with disabilities (Benedet and Grant 2014; Curry et al. 2001).

Canadians with mental health‑related disabilities report highest rates of violent victimization

When compared to Canadians who did not have a disability, rates of violent victimization were higher among women and men with a disability, regardless of the type of disability. When looking at specific types of disability, there were no statistically significant differences in the rate of violent victimization between men and women (Table 1; Chart 2).

Chart 2 Self-reported violent victimization of Canadians with a disability, by type of disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 2
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Type of disability (appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using rate per 1,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of disability Women Men
rate per 1,000 population
No disabilityData table Note  65 58
Any disabilityData table Note 1 137Note * 105Note *
Sensory disabilityData table Note 2 162Note E: Use with caution Note * 96Note E: Use with caution
Physical disability 108Note * 102Note E: Use with caution Note *
Cognitive disability 241Note E: Use with caution Note * 259Note E: Use with caution Note *
Mental health-related disability 261Note * 193Note E: Use with cautionNote *

The rate of violent victimization among women with a mental health‑related disability or with a cognitive disability was four times higher compared to those without a disability (261 per 1,000 and 241E per 1,000, respectively, versus 65 per 1,000). Said another way, in the 12 months preceding the survey, there was one incident of violent victimization for every four women with a mental, psychological, cognitive, or learning related disability. Rates of violent victimization were also considerably higher among men who reported these types of disability: 4.5 times higher among men with a cognitive disability (259E) and 3 times higher among those with a mental health‑related disability (193) when compared to men who did not have a disability (58).

One key difference between women and men was observed among those with a sensory disability. The higher rate of violent victimization among Canadians with a sensory disability was driven by women, as the rate of violent victimization was 2.5 times higher among women with a sensory disability than among women without a disability (162E versus 65). There was no statistically significant difference in violent victimization among men with a sensory disability compared to men without a disability. In other words, while having a sensory disability did not appear to affect the likelihood of violent victimization for men, it did for women.

Co‑occurrence of disability types associated with higher prevalence of self‑reported victimization

Though it is possible to examine victimization rates according to specific types of disability, it is important to note that none of the categories of disability analyzed in this report are mutually exclusive. Women and men may have multiple types of disability and therefore be included in more than one category when analyzing victimization data by type of disability. For that reason, direct comparisons between types of disability are not recommended.

However, the impact of co‑occurring types of disability can be examined. While the presence of any disability had an impact on self‑reported victimization, the co‑occurrence of two or more types of disability was associated with considerably higher rates of victimization (Chart 3). For example, the rate of violent victimization among women who reported having one type of disability was 102 per 1,000, which is about half the rate of those who reported two types of disabilities (202 per 1,000). Furthermore, among women who reported three or more types of disabilities, the rate of violent victimization in the 12 months preceding the survey was 263E per 1,000.

Chart 3 Self-reported violent victimization of Canadians with a disability, by co-occurrence of disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 3
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3 Number of disability types, No disability, One of sensory, physical, cognitive, or mental health-related disabilities, Two of sensory, physical, cognitive, or mental health-related disabilities and Three or four of sensory, physical, cognitive, or mental health-related disabilities, calculated using rate per 1,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Number of disability types
No disabilityData table Note  One of sensory, physical, cognitive, or mental health-related disabilities Two of sensory, physical, cognitive, or mental health-related disabilities Three or four of sensory, physical, cognitive, or mental health-related disabilities
rate per 1,000 population
Women 66 102Note * 202Note * 263Note E: Use with caution Note *
Men 58 70 191Note E: Use with caution Note * 234Note E: Use with caution Note *

Likewise, men who reported one type of disability were less likely to report violent victimization in the past 12 months (70 per 1,000) when compared to those who had two (191E per 1,000) or three or four (234E per 1,000). However, unlike for women, there was no statistically significant difference in the rate of violent victimization between men who reported one type of disability and men who reported no disability.

Young women with disabilities report higher prevalence of violent victimization

Many of the same patterns identified in violent victimization for the population as a whole also apply to women and men who have a disability. For example, age is typically found to play a role in the risk for victimization, where the likelihood of being a victim decreases with age (Perreault 2015).

Despite the population with a disability being, on average, older than the population without a disability,Note  this relationship still holds true. There were 378E incidents of violent victimization for every 1,000 women 15 to 24 years of age with a disability, decreasing steadily by age group to 13E incidents for every 1,000 women 65 years of age and older with a disability (Table 2). The relationship between age and the risk of violent victimization also held when controlling for other variables of interest (Model 1).

Among men with a disability, victimization rates were considerably lower among those aged 55 to 64 (45E incidents per 1,000 population) and 65 years and older (25E), but there were no other differences observed by age (Table 2). This was also noted when other factors of interest were held constant (Model 2).

On average, those with a cognitive or mental health‑related disability are younger than those who have sensory or physical disabilities.Note  Rates of violent victimization were particularly high among young women who reported a cognitive or mental health‑related disability. There were more than 400 incidents of violent victimization for every 1,000 women with a mental health‑related disability between the ages of 15 and 24 (445E) and 25 to 34 (406E), and close to that amount among 15‑ to 24‑year‑old women with a cognitive disability (378E) (Table 3).

Among women with a cognitive disability who also identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, the rate of violent victimization was 680E incidents per 1,000 population, well above the rate among heterosexual women with a cognitive disability (198E per 1,000). Among women with a mental health‑related disability, there were 514E incidents of violent victimization per 1,000 population among those identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, compared to 195 per 1,000 among those who identified as heterosexual.

Furthermore, the odds of violent victimization among women with a disability who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were 2.3 times higher than among heterosexual women with a disability, even after controlling for other factors (Model 1). Among men with a disability, sexual orientation did not impact the risk of violent victimization when holding other factors constant.

As was the case among the general population (Ibrahim forthcoming 2018), the rate of violent victimization among those with a disability was lower for immigrants (80E incidents per 1,000 population) than for non‑immigrants with a disability (134 per 1,000). However, immigrants with a disability were more likely than immigrants who did not have a disability to have been victimized in the past 12 months (80E incidents versus 35 incidents per 1,000 population).

Aboriginal persons with a disability were more likely than non‑Aboriginal persons with a disability to have been violently victimized in the past 12 months (206E incidents per 1,000 versus 120 per 1,000). That said, the same trend was evident when comparing Aboriginal persons without a disability to non‑Aboriginal persons without a disability, and there was no statistically significant difference between victimization rates of Aboriginal persons with a disability and Aboriginal persons who did not have a disability.

Women with a disability more likely to experience multiple victimization

Not only was the overall rate of violent victimization higher when compared to those without a disability, women with a disability more often reported multiple, separate incidents of victimization in the 12 months preceding the survey. Nearly two in five (36%) women with a disability who were victimized reported two or more incidents, twice the proportion among women without a disability (20%).

Similar trends were observed among men, and there was no statistical difference in the proportion of women and men with a disability who were victimized multiple times in the past 12 months (36% and 29%E of victims, respectively).

Experiences of childhood abuse and homelessness more prevalent among persons with a disability

Canadians with a disability were more likely to have experienced abuse during their childhood as well as homelessness at some point in their lifetime, when compared to Canadians without a disability. Moreover, previous analysis of the GSS has shown that child abuse and homelessness are associated with an increased risk of violent victimization later in life (Burczycka 2017; Perreault 2015).

Overall, close to one‑third (30%) of Canadians 15 years of age and older experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse committed by an adult (someone 18 years of age or older) before age 15 (Burczycka 2017). Men were more likely than women to have experienced physical abuse during childhood; however, women were more likely to have been sexually abused by an adult before reaching the age of 15.

Of importance to note, especially when it comes to abuse experienced during childhood, the GSS cannot determine if disability was present at the time of the abuse. That said, this pattern held true among Canadians with a disability, and the overall prevalence of child abuse was considerably higher.

Approximately four in ten women (38%) and men (43%) with a disability at the time of the survey were physically or sexually abused by an adult before age 15. Though it is not possible to determine whether or not disability was present at the time, these proportions were well above what was reported by those without a disability (23% of women and 30% of men) (Table 4).

While, in general, Canadians with a disability at the time of the survey were more likely to have experienced physical or sexual abuse committed by an adult during their childhood, the prevalence was even higher among those with a mental or cognitive disability. Half of those with a mental‑health related disability (50% of women and 53% of men) or a cognitive disability (48% of women and 52% of men) were abused by an adult before they were 15 (Table 4).

Women with a disability more likely to have been sexually abused during childhood

Women with a disability at the time of the survey were more likely to have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of an adult before they reached 15 years of age (Chart 4). One in five (18%) women with a disability were touched in a sexual way by an adult before the age of 15, a proportion that was double that of women without a disability (9%). Likewise, 12% of women with a disability reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by an adult before the age of 15, compared with 5% of women without a disability.

Chart 4 Childhood physical or sexual abuse experienced by Canadians with a disability, by sex, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 4
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4 Has a disability and Does not have a disability, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Has a disabilityData table Note 1 Does not have a disabilityData table Note 
percent
Sexual abuse during childhood
Women 19Note *** 9Note **
Men 7Note * 3
Physical abuse during childhood
Women 30Note *** 19Note **
Men 41Note * 29

Although the prevalence was lower, the same pattern was evident among men with a disability. About one in 14 (7%) men with a disability at the time of the survey reported being sexually touched by an adult during their childhood, compared to 3% of men without a disability. Men with a disability were also more than twice as likely to have been forced into unwanted sexual activity by an adult compared to men without a disability (3.9% versus 1.4%).

Violent victimization in adulthood more prevalent among those abused as children

Women with a disability who were physically abused as children were almost twice as likely as women with a disability who were not physically abused before the age of 15 to have been violently victimized in the 12 months preceding the survey (199 incidents per 1,000 population versus 110). Among men with a disability, the rate was three times higher among those who were physically abused as children (174 per 1,000 compared with 57). In particular, men with a physical disability or a cognitive disability who had been physically abused during their childhood reported violent victimization at a rate close to 4 times higher than their counterparts who had not been physically abused (Table 2; Table 3).

When controlling for other factors, having been physically abused during childhood did not independently increase the risk of violent victimization for women with a disability (Model 1). On the other hand, the odds of violent victimization for men with a disability who were physically abused before the age of 15 were 2.7 times higher when compared to those who were not physically abused in their childhood (Model 2).

Sexual abuse before the age of 15 was also associated with violent victimization in adulthood, especially when taking disability into account. There were 272E incidents of violent victimization for every 1,000 women with a disability who were sexually abused during childhood. This was close to two and a half times higher than the rates among women who were sexually abused but did not have a disability (111E) as well as among women who have a disability but were not sexually abused during childhood (106) (Table 2). This rate was also roughly five times higher than the rate of violent victimization among women who did not have a disability and were not sexually abused as children (60 per 1,000).

Among men, these gaps were even wider. The rate of self‑reported victimization among men with a disability who were sexually abused during childhood was three times higher than that among men who were sexually abused but did not have a disability, and four times higher than among men with a disability who were not sexually abused (367E, compared with 109E and 86, respectively) (Table 2).

Similar results were noted when controlling for other key factors of interest (Models 1 and 2). Sexual abuse during childhood was associated with an increased risk of violent victimization in adulthood for both women and men with a disability. However, the magnitude was different: being sexually abused by an adult before the age of 15 increased the odds of violent victimization 1.8 times among women with a disability and 3.5 times among men with a disability.

Canadians with a disability twice as likely to have witnessed violence between parents or guardians

In addition to asking Canadians about any physical and sexual violence directed at them before the age of 15, the GSS on Victimization also asks about witnessing violence committed by a parent or guardian against another adult. Witnessing violence in the home has been associated with comparable negative outcomes, in terms of trauma or future victimization, as experiencing physical or sexual abuse during childhood (Wolfe et al. 2003). In addition, analysis of the 2014 GSS found that 70% of adults who witnessed parental violence were also victims of physical or sexual abuse during childhood (Burczycka 2017).

Overall, 16% of Canadians with a disability stated that they witnessed violence between a parent or guardian and another adult in their home during their childhood, close to double the proportion among Canadians who did not have a disability (9%). These proportions were the same for both women and men. More than three‑quarters of women (76%) and men (78%) with a disability who witnessed parental violence also experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 15, well above the proportion of those without a disability who witnessed parental violence and were also themselves physically or sexually abused during childhood (37% of women and 30% of men).

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Persons with a disability twice as likely to have been under the legal responsibility of the government during childhood

While a small proportion of Canadians 15 years of age and older reported ever being under the legal responsibility of the government during their childhood, it was twice as common among those with a disability as among those without one (4% versus 2%). Said another way, of the roughly 643,000 Canadians who were, at some point in their childhood, under the legal responsibility of the government, 40% reported currently having a disability. Regardless of the presence or type of disability, women and men were equally likely to have been under the legal responsibility of the government during their childhood.

The General Social Survey on Victimization does not collect detailed information on why the individual was under the care or legal responsibility of the government before age 15, or information on the experiences while in care. Additionally, as has been pointed out elsewhere (e.g., Hango 2017), for those who experienced abuse during childhood and were under the legal responsibility of the government, it is not possible to determine if the individual was subjected to abuse while in care or was placed in care because they were removed from an abusive home. Of those with a disability who were under the legal responsibility of the government at some point during childhood, 74% of women and 63% of men reported having experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of an adult before they were 15. This is compared with about four in ten of those with a disability (37% of women and 42% of men) who were never under the legal responsibility of the government.

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Women with a disability more likely to have experienced homelessness

Overall, both women and men with a disability were more likely to have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, whether that be "strict homelessness" (i.e., having lived in a shelter or on the street) or the more broad definition of homelessness, sometimes referred to as "hidden homelessness", which includes having to temporarily live with family or friends (i.e., couch‑surfing) (Rodrigue 2016). The proportion of those with a disability who had experienced homelessness of any kind was about double that of those without a disability, for both men and women (Table 5; Chart 5).

Chart 5 Homelessness experienced by Canadians with a disability, by type of disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 5
Data table for Chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5. The information is grouped by Type of disability (appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of disability Women Men
percent
No disabilityData table Note  6Note ** 7
Any disabilityData table Note 1 13Note *** 16Note *
Sensory disabilityData table Note 2 15Note * 15Note *
Physical disability 14Note *** 17Note *
Cognitive disability 22Note * 23Note *
Mental health-related disability 22Note * 25Note *

When looking at the definition of strict homelessness specifically, the gap was even wider. About 3% of women with a disability indicated that they had lived in a shelter or on the street at some point in their life, 4 times higher than the proportion among women without a disability (0.7%). For men, this gap was about 3 times (4.1% compared with 1.3%).

Women with a cognitive disability (5.7%E) or a mental health‑related disability (5.8%E) were close to 8 times more likely than women with no disability (0.7%) to report having lived in a shelter or on the street in their lifetime. Among men, the proportion who reported having lived in a shelter or on the street was 7 times higher among those with a cognitive disability (8.9%E) and 5 times higher among those with a mental health‑related disability (6.8%E) when compared to those with no disability (1.3%).

Overall, more than one in five Canadians with a mental health‑related disability (22% of women and 25% of men) or a cognitive disability (22% of women and 23% of men) indicated that they were homeless at some point in their life.

Rate of self‑reported violent victimization three times higher among women with a disability who had ever been homeless

For women, having a disability in addition to having a history of homelessness was associated with increased rates of violent victimization. Among women with a disability who had ever been homeless, the rate of self‑reported violent victimization in the past 12 months was 326E per 1,000 population, roughly three times higher than women with a disability who had never been homeless (108 per 1,000) or women who had been homeless but did not have a disability (123E per 1,000) (Table 2). A history of homelessness was also associated with higher rates of violent victimization among men; however, there was no statistically significant difference between men with a disability and men without a disability.

Notably, even when controlling for other factors, a history of homelessness remained associated with an increased risk of violent victimization for women with a disability (Model 1). The odds of being a victim of violent crime were more than twice as high for women with a disability who had ever been homeless compared to those without a history of homelessness, other factors being equal. Homelessness was not a significant predictor of the risk of violent victimization for men with a disability when keeping other factors constant (Model 2).

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Experiences of discrimination among Canadians with a disability

In Canada, discrimination on the basis of disability—in addition to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered—is formally prohibited by law (Canadian Human Rights Act). The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) is based on the underlying principle that all Canadians have the right to equal opportunity, regardless of these characteristics.

Over one in five (22%) Canadians 15 years of age and older with a disability indicated that they had experienced any kind of discrimination or other unfair treatment in the past 5 years, twice the proportion of those who did not report a disability (11%). This was the case regardless of the specific type of disability. Overall, among those with a disability, women were slightly more likely than men to have experienced discrimination in the past 5 years (23% versus 20%).

For women with a disability, discrimination on the basis of their sex (8%) and their physical appearance (7%) was perceived slightly more often than discrimination due to physical or mental disability (5%), which speaks to the important intersection of sex and disability. In contrast, men with a disability were slightly less likely to experience discrimination on the basis of their sex (4%) when compared to discrimination due to physical or mental disability (6%), but more likely to cite discrimination due to their ethnicity or culture (7%).

Among those with a disability, six in ten women (61%) and men (57%) who experienced discrimination because of their disability stated that they were also discriminated against for at least one other reason.Note  For women with a disability who experienced discrimination on the basis of their disability in addition to at least one other characteristic, physical appearance (33%), sex (30%), and age (23%) were the most common co‑occurring factors. For men, physical appearance (29%E), ethnicity or culture (23%E), and race or skin colour (22%E) were the most commonly perceived co‑occurring grounds for discrimination.

In general, the contexts in which discrimination was experienced were similar among those with a disability and those without a disability, regardless of sex or the specific type of disability. The most common situation in which discrimination or unfair treatment was experienced was at work or while applying for a job,Note  followed by while in a bank, store, or restaurant.Note 

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Characteristics of self‑reported incidents of violent victimization

In general, the characteristics of the perpetrators of violent incidents (excluding spousal violenceNote ) experienced by Canadians with a disability were similar to incidents experienced by Canadians who did not report a disability. Though these characteristics may be similar, the consequences or experiences of victimization can vary considerably.

As was the case with incidents committed against individuals who did not report a disability, incidents of violent victimization of people with a disability tended to involve a male perpetrator (85%), an offender under the age of 35 (65%), and a lone offender (72%) (Table 6). Not only were these offender characteristics similar to Canadian victims who did not have a disability, but among those with a disability, they were similar between female and male victims.

As was the case among women who did not report a disability, women with a disability who were victimized most often reported that the perpetrator was a friend, acquaintance, or neighbour (44%) or a stranger (35%). When it came to men, on the other hand, an important difference was found between those with and without a disability. Men with a disability were considerably more likely than those without to be victimized by a friend, acquaintance, or neighbour (43% compared with 26%). As a consequence, the proportion of men victimized by a stranger was lower among those with a disability (49%) compared to those who did not have a disability (67%).

Close to one in three violent incidents against persons with a disability occurred in their own home

Canadians with a disability were more likely to be victimized in their own home compared to Canadians who did not report a disability. Almost one in three (30%) incidents of violent victimization of a person with a disability occurred in their private residence, almost twice the proportion seen among victims who did not report a disability (17%). Men with a disability were more likely to state that the violent incident occurred in their home compared to men without a disability (37%E versus 16%). One‑quarter (26%) of women with a disability were victimized in their own home, but this was not statistically different when compared to women without a disability (17%).

It should be noted, though, that the population living in institutions, such as residential care facilities and other collective dwellings, are excluded from the General Social Survey and their experiences are therefore not measured or included in this finding.

Physical and emotional consequences of victimization greater among those with a disability

Almost three in ten (28%E) women who were victims of physical assault, sexual assault, or robbery who had a disability reported that they were physically injured as a result of the incident—in contrast, this was the case for about one in ten female victims of violent crime who did not have a disability (11%E). Women with a disability were also more likely than women without a disability to have difficulty with their everyday activities following victimization, though the gap was slightly narrower (38% versus 24%).

Men with a disability were equally likely as those without a disability to be injured in a violent incident. Despite an equal risk of physical injury as a result of violent victimization, men with a disability were more likely than men without a disability to face subsequent daily challenges. Three in ten (31%E) men with a disability who were victimized stated that they had difficulty carrying out their everyday activities as a result of the incident, compared with one in ten (12%E) men who did not have a disability.

Victims of crime with a disability more likely to access formal support services

When looking at all incidents where victims contacted some form of services, 61% involved a victim who reported a disability. Said another way, victims who had a disability contacted or used a victim service in about one in five (22%E) incidents, while this was the case in one in ten (9%E) incidents where the victim did not have a disability. Women with disabilities were twice as likely as their male counterparts to contact or use victim services following an incident of violent victimization (27%E versus 13%E).

This underscores the need for services for victims of crime to be accessible and to be able to respond to the varying needs of victims of crime with all forms of disability. The majority of victim service providers reported that they are able to accommodate victims of crime with mobility disabilities (96%), developmental or mental disorders (85%), visual disabilities (73%), and hearing disabilities (70%) (Allen 2014). That said, although most service providers stated that they are able to accommodate victims of crime with developmental or mental disorders, many required outside assistance to do so. Just under half (48%) of victim service providers had trained staff members; in most cases, other organizations (88%) or informal support (74%) were required (Allen 2014).

Victims of violent crime with a disability equally likely to turn to police

Overall, there was no difference between victims of violent crime who had a disability and victims who did not in terms of the likelihood that the incident came to the attention of police. Regardless of whether or not the victim reported a disability, one‑third of violent incidents came to police attention; of these, the majority were reported directly by the respondent. Men and women with a disability were equally likely to report to police; in contrast, among victims of crime who did not have a disability, men were almost twice as likely to state the incident came to police attention (39% versus 21%) (Table 7).

Additionally, among those who did not report the incident to police, the most common reasons provided for not reporting were relatively consistent when comparing victims of violent crime who have a disability with victims of crime who do not. There were, however, some notable differences in terms of the ranking (Table 7; Chart 6).

Chart 6 Selected reasons for not reporting violent victimization to police, by disability status, 2014

Data table for Chart 6
Data table for Chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 6. The information is grouped by Reason for not reporting (appearing as row headers), Has a disability and Does not have a disability, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Reason for not reporting Has a disability Does not have a disabilityData table Note 
percent
Incident was a private or personal matter and was handled informally 71Note * 58
Crime was minor and not worth taking the time to report 63 71
Did not want the hassle of dealing with the police 59Note * 42
No one was harmed/no financial loss 50 53
Police wouldn't have considered the incident important enough 50Note * 38
Offender would not be convicted or adequately punished 48Note * 28
Lack of evidence 41Note * 27
Feared or did not want the hassle of dealing with the court process 41Note * 26
Unsatisfactory service (from police) in the past 27Note E: Use with caution Note * 10Note E: Use with caution
Fear of revenge by the offender 25Note E: Use with caution Note * 14Note E: Use with caution
Reported to another official 19Note E: Use with caution Note * 10Note E: Use with caution

Among victims of crime with a disability, the incident being private or personal and handled informally was the most common reason provided for not reporting (71%), followed by the crime being perceived as minor and not worth reporting (63%), not wanting the hassle of dealing with police (59%), nobody being harmed (50%), and believing that the police would not have considered the incident important enough (50%). Among these most common reasons, victims of crime with a disability were more likely than victims who did not have a disability to state that they did not report the incident because it was private or personal, because they did not want the hassle of dealing with police, and because they felt the police would not have considered the incident important enough.

Victims of violent crime with a disability were also almost twice as likely as victims without a disability to cite a fear of revenge by the offender (25%E versus 14%E), feeling that the offender would not be convicted or adequately punished (48% versus 28%), and fear or not wanting the hassle of dealing with the court process (41% versus 26%) as reasons for not reporting the incident to police.

For the most part, among those with a disability, there were no statistically significant differences between men and women in terms of reasons for not reporting violent victimization to police. The sole exception was that women with a disability were three times more likely to state that they did not report to police because they didn't want others to know about the incident when compared to men with a disability (30E versus 10E).

Unsatisfactory service from police in the past much more common among women with a disability who were victimized

More than one‑quarter (27%E) of persons with a disability who were victimized cited unsatisfactory service from police in the past as a reason for not reporting the incident, almost three times more than the corresponding proportion of victims without a disability (10%E). In particular, among women with a disability, previous unsatisfactory service was cited about five times as often when compared to women without a disability (27%E versus 5%E). Men with a disability were equally as likely as men who did not have a disability to cite this reason.

Perhaps related both to the increased likelihood that persons with a disability consulted victim services as well as the increased likelihood of previous contact with police that was unsatisfactory, victims of crime with a disability were also more likely to state that the incident was not reported to police because it was reported to another officialNote  (19%E compared to 10%E among victims who did not report a disability).

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Women with disabilities generally feel less safe

In addition to experiences of criminal victimization, the General Social Survey on Victimization also collects key information on Canadians' perceptions of crime and their feelings of personal safety (see Perreault 2017 for detailed analysis).

Among other findings, it was noted that women with a disability are less likely to feel safe when outside alone in their neighbourhood after dark, even when controlling for other key factors related to fear of crime, such as age, past victimization, confidence in police, perceived levels of crime in the neighbourhood, among others (Perreault 2017). Persons with a disability were also generally less satisfied with their personal safety from crime.

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Spousal violence against persons with a disability

In addition to violence in general, research has found that persons with a disability, particularly women, are also at greater risk of spousal violence (Barranti and Yuen 2008; Brownridge 2006; Cohen et al. 2006; Platt et al. 2017). To date, research has noted several characteristics associated with spousal violence perpetrated against victims who have a disability, such as a greater degree of caregiving provided by a partner, barriers for seeking help or for leaving a violent situation, and fear of isolation (Harpur and Douglas 2014; Nosek et al. 2006).

While persons with a disability are at risk of the same types of violence as persons without a disability, certain types of violence or abuse are faced specifically by persons with a disability (Curry et al. 2001; Platt et al. 2017). Within the context of a spousal or ex‑spousal relationship, violence or abuse can also include behaviours uniquely experienced among persons with a disability, such as hiding or restricting access to medication, mobility aids, or medical technologies (Harpur and Douglas 2014; Healey et al. 2013). Although the General Social Survey on Victimization does not take these specific behaviours into account and therefore may exclude some of the unique forms of violence or abuse experienced by those with a disability, the GSS does capture a wide range of emotional, financial, physical, and sexual violence and abuse.

Spousal violence and abuse can extend beyond physical and sexual assault. Other forms of abuse, such as emotional or financial abuse, can also occur within the context of relationships and have considerably negative outcomes, especially for women (Estefan et al. 2016; Mihorean 2005; Rogers and Follingstad 2011). One in five persons with a disability (22% of women and 21% of men) reported that they were emotionally or financially abusedNote  by a current or former partner with whom they had contact in the past 5 years, approximately double what was reported by persons without a disability (11% of women and 13% of men) (Table 8).

Physical or sexual violenceNote  committed by a current or former spouse or common law partner was more common among persons with a disability compared to those without a disability (Table 8). Women with a disability were more than twice as likely to have been victimized by their spouse in the past 5 years (6.2% versus 2.7%). Men with a disability were also more commonly victimized by a spouse or partner: 5.6% experienced physical or sexual violence committed by a current or former partner, compared with 3.8% of men who did not have a disability.

Notably, among Canadians without a disability, women were slightly less likely than men to have experienced any form of spousal violence or abuse (11% and 14%, respectively), though women in general are most likely to experience the most serious forms of spousal violence, such as being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked, or threatened with a weapon (Burczycka 2016). Among Canadians with a disability, the gender gap in terms of prevalence disappears; women and men were equally likely to report any type of violence or abuse (23% and 22%, respectively). However, of those who experienced any form of spousal violence, close to four in ten (39%) women with a disability experienced the most severe forms (being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked, or threatened with a weapon), more than double the proportion of male victims with a disability (16%E).

Women with a cognitive disability most likely to experience spousal abuse or violence

Generally, among Canadians with a disability, women and men were equally likely to have experienced spousal abuse regardless of the specific type of disability. An exception was noted when it came to those with a cognitive disability, as women were considerably more likely than men to have been a victim of violence or abuse by a current or former spouse or common‑law partner. More than four in ten (43%) women with a cognitive disability were victims of some form of abuse or violence, compared to approximately one‑quarter (27%) of men (Table 8; Chart 7).

Chart 7 Self-reported spousal abuse in the past 5 years, by type of disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 7
Data table for Chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 7. The information is grouped by Type of disability (appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of disability Women Men
percent
No disabilityData table Note  11Note ** 14
Any disabilityData table Note 1 23Note * 22Note *
Sensory disabilityData table Note 2 25Note * 21Note *
Physical disability 24Note * 22Note *
Cognitive disability 43Note *** 27Note *
Mental health-related disability 37Note * 33Note *

This pattern was also evident when looking specifically at physical or sexual violence. Nearly one in five (16%) women with a cognitive disability were physically or sexually assaulted by a current or former partner in the 5 years preceding the survey, close to double the proportion among men (9%E).

Victims of spousal violence with a disability report more frequent instances of violence

Not only was the prevalence of spousal violence higher among persons with a disability, there was also an increased frequency of violent incidents. More than one‑third (35%) of female spousal violence victims with a disability indicated that their spouse or partner was violent towards them on 6 or more different occasions in the past 5 years, compared to one in five (22%) female victims who did not have a disability. Similarly, about one quarter (26%E) of male spousal violence victims with a disability reported 6 or more separate incidents, close to double the proportion of male victims who did not have a disability (14%E) (Chart 8).Note 

Chart 8 Frequency of incidents of spousal violence in the past 5 years among victims, by sex and disability, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 8
Data table for Chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 8 Women, Men, Frequency of incidents , One incident, 2 to 5 incidents and 6 or more incidents, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Women Men
Frequency of incidents
One incident 2 to 5 incidents 6 or more incidents One incident 2 to 5 incidents 6 or more incidents
percent
Has a disability 35Note * 26 35Note * 32Note E: Use with caution Note * 40 26Note E: Use with caution Note *
Does not have a disabilityData table Note  54 21 22 55 28 14Note E: Use with caution

Women with a disability more likely to fear for their life due to a partner's behaviour

Fearing for one's life is often used as a key measure of the severity of spousal violence. The element of fear can be a factor which helps differentiate between violence that is committed between partners and may be situational or mutually inflicted, and violence which is more likely to be a reflection of a pattern of coercion and abuse predominantly committed by one partner (Johnson and Leone 2005). Among women who were victims of spousal violence, close to four in ten (38%) with a disability stated that they feared for their life due to their partner or ex‑partner's behaviour. This proportion was higher than the 26% of women without a disability, and well above the 14%E of men with a disability who feared for their life due to violence (Table 9).

Differences were also observed by type of disability. Specifically, among victims of spousal violence, more than half of women with a cognitive disability (53%E) feared for their life as a result—double the proportion among women who did not have a disability (26%). Women with a physical disability were also more likely than women without to fear for their life due to spousal violence (43%), while mental health‑related disability and sensory disability were not associated with a greater likelihood of fearing for one's life (Table 9).Note 

This fear may also be related to some of the specific forms of violence against people with disabilities mentioned previously (Harpur and Douglas 2014; Healey et al. 2013; Nosek et al. 2006). When an abusive spouse or partner is also a caregiver, these behaviours may be part of the psychological and physical violence carried out, or they may be retaliatory in nature (Nosek et al. 2006). Though not measured in the GSS, these specific types of fears may help to explain the higher levels of fear reported by female victims of spousal violence who have a disability.

In addition to being more likely to fear for their life, three in ten (31%) women with a disability who were victims of spousal violence reported the presence of three or more longer‑term emotional impacts, which may indicate the possibility of post‑traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Table 9; Chart 9). This proportion was about three times higher than that among female spousal violence victims who did not have a disability (11%E).Note  Among victims of spousal violence, half of women with a sensory disability or a cognitive disability (each 49%E) responded yes to at least three of the longer‑term emotional impact questions used to assess the possibility of PTSD.

Chart 9 Women who were victims of spousal violence who reported long-term emotional impacts consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, by type of disability, Canada, 2014

Data table for Chart 9
Data table for Chart 9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 9. The information is grouped by Type of disability (appearing as row headers), Percent (appearing as column headers).
Type of disability Percent
No disabilityData table Note  11Note E: Use with caution
Any disabilityData table Note 1 31Note *
Sensory disabilityData table Note 2 49Note E: Use with caution Note *
Physical disability 34Note *
Cognitive disability 49Note E: Use with caution Note *
Mental health-related disability 42Note *

Seven in ten women with a disability contacted formal support services due to spousal violence

As was the case with non‑spousal violent victimization, victims of spousal violence who had a disability were more likely than those who did not have a disability to use or contact formal support services following the violence. Most notably, 71% of women with a disability used or contacted some sort of victims' service as a result of spousal violence, well above the proportions of women who did not have a disability (44%) or men with or without a disability (29%E and 17%E, respectively) (Table 9).Note 

In contrast, victims' sex and disability made little difference in terms of reporting of violence to police. While women with a disability were more likely than men with a disability to state that police learned about at least one instance of violence (38% versus 23%E), there were no other differences in reporting to police based on sex or presence of any specific type of disability.

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Abuse of seniors with a disability committed by caregivers

The 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization included questions designed to estimate the prevalence of emotional and financial abuseNote  committed against Canadians 65 years of age and older by a child, relative, friend, or caregiver. As the prevalence of disability increases with age, many seniors may rely on caregivers for reasons related to a disability in addition to (or as a result of) aging in general.

Overall, 4%E of senior women with a disability and 3%E of senior men with a disability reported abuse committed by a caregiver, compared to 0.9%E and 0.4%E, respectively, among those without a disability. However, based on GSS data, it is unknown how many Canadians 65 years of age and older relied on a caregiver, regardless of the presence of disability.

Seniors reporting a cognitive disability or a mental health‑related disability were most at‑risk of experiencing abuse committed by a child, relative, friend, or caregiver. Approximately one in ten senior women with a cognitive disability (9.7%E) or a mental health‑related disability (9.5%E) reported that they had experienced emotional or financial abuse from a caretaker in the past 5 years.Note 

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Summary

This article presents an overview of experiences of victimization across the life course of Canadian women and men with disabilities, using data from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization.

Although the information captured by the GSS is a snapshot of a particular point in time, and some experiences analyzed, such as childhood abuse and homelessness, may have occurred years or decades ago, it is noteworthy that violent victimization in the 12 months preceding the survey was nearly double that among women and men who had a disability when compared to those who did not. Rates were considerably higher among women and men with a cognitive disability or a mental health‑related disability, as well as among those who reported the co‑occurrence of two or more types of disability.

Notably, rates of sexual assault were twice as high among women with a disability when compared to women who did not have a disability. Further, women with a mental health‑related disability or a cognitive disability reported sexual assault at a rate that was more than 4 times higher than women with no disability.

Women with a disability at the time of the survey were considerably more likely to have been sexually abused before the age of 15 than men with a disability at the time of the survey, while the opposite was true for physical abuse. While this reflected the same pattern as among the Canadian population in general, the prevalence of abuse was much higher among those with a disability, with four in every ten Canadians with a disability having been physically or sexually abused by an adult before they were 15 years old.

Likewise, both women and men with a disability were twice as likely as those without a disability to have experienced any form of homelessness at any point in their lifetime. When looking only at experiences of homelessness according to the strictest definition of the concept—e.g., having lived in a shelter, on the street, or in an abandoned building—women with a disability were four times more likely than women without a disability to have been homeless.

Just over one in five Canadians with a disability were emotionally, financially, physically, or sexually abused by a current or former spouse or common‑law partner; the proportions were similar for women and men. In both cases, the prevalence was well above that reported by women and men who did not have a disability.

While the overall prevalence of spousal violence was comparable between women with a disability and men with a disability, the severity, impact, and consequence of this violence was not. Women with a disability were more likely than men with a disability to report the most serious forms of spousal violence, such as being beaten, choked, threatened with a gun or knife, or sexually assaulted, being physically injured due to the violence, having feared for their life, and contacting or using formal support services following the violence.

As a cross‑sectional survey, data from the GSS did not allow for the determination of temporal order or impacts of disability and their interaction with childhood abuse, homelessness, violent victimization, or spousal violence. However, the relationships between disability and experiences of victimization provides important information about the nature and extent of victimization among Canadians with disability.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Self‑reported violent victimization, by sex, type of disability, and type of offence, 2014

Table 2 Self‑reported violent victimization, by sex, disability, and selected characteristics, 2014

Table 3 Self‑reported violent victimization, by sex, type of disability, and selected characteristics, 2014

Table 4 Physical or sexual abuse experienced during childhood, by sex, type of disability, and type of abuse, 2014

Table 5 Experiences of homelessness, by sex, type of disability, and type of homelessness, 2014

Table 6 Selected characteristics of incidents of self‑reported violent victimization, by disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Table 7 Reporting violent victimization to police and reasons for not reporting, by disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Table 8 Self‑reported emotional, physical, or sexual abuse committed by a current or former spouse or common‑law partner, by type of disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Table 9 Selected characteristics and consequences of violence committed by a current or former spouse or common‑law partner in the past 5 years, by type of disability and sex, Canada, 2014

Model 1 and Model 2 Logistic regression: Risk of violent victimization for women with a disability and men with a disability, by selected characteristics, 2014

Survey description

General Social Survey on Canadians' Safety (Victimization)

In 2014, Statistics Canada conducted the sixth cycle of the General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians' Safety (Victimization). Previous cycles were conducted in 1988, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2009. The purpose of the survey is to provide data on Canadians' personal experiences with eight offences, examine the risk factors associated with victimization, examine rates of reporting to the police, assess the nature and extent of spousal violence, measure fear of crime, and examine public perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system.

The target population for the GSS on Victimization is the Canadian population aged 15 and older, living in the provinces and territories. Canadians residing in institutions and other collective dwellings are not included. Once a household was contacted an individual 15 years or older was randomly selected to respond to the survey.

In 2014, the sample size for the 10 provinces was 33,127 respondents, while the sample size for the three territories was 2,040 respondents.

Data collection

Data collection in the provinces took place from January to December 2014 inclusively. Responses were obtained by computer‑assisted telephone interviews (CATI). In the territories, data collection took place from August 2014 to January 2015 inclusively and the method of collection was a mixture of CATI and personal interviews (CAPI). Respondents were able to respond in the official language of their choice.

Response rates

The overall response rate in 2014 was 52.9% in the provinces (down from 61.6% in 2009) and 58.7% in the territories (up from 50.7% in 2009). Non‑respondents included people who refused to participate, could not be reached, or could not speak English or French. Respondents in the sample were weighted so that their responses represent the non‑institutionalized Canadian population aged 15 and older.

Data limitations

As with any household survey, there are some data limitations. The results are based on a sample and are therefore subject to sampling errors. Somewhat different results might have been obtained if the entire population had been surveyed. This article uses the coefficient of variation (CV) as a measure of the sampling error. Estimates with a high CV (over 33.3%) were not published because they were too unreliable. In these cases, the symbol "F" is used in place of an estimate in the figures and data tables. Estimates with a CV between 16.6 and 33.3 should be used with caution and the symbol "E" is used. Where descriptive statistics and cross‑tabular analyses were used, statistically significant differences were determined using 95% confidence intervals.

Previous cycles of the GSS on Victimization used a definition of disability that was consistent with the 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS), the predecessor of the Canadian Survey on Disability. For many reasons, data relating to disability cannot be compared between the two sources and methods (for more information, see Section 8 of the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012: Concepts and Methods Guide). As a result, trend information on violent victimization among persons with a disability is not available.

Methods for multivariate analysis

The influence of a factor is indicated by the odds ratio, which should be read in relation to the reference category. To make the results easier to read, these regressions model the probability of being a victim of violent crime. An odds ratio greater than 1 indicates that the characteristic increases the odds for the variable of interest (in this case, being a victim of violent crime) and an odds ratio lower than 1 indicates that the odds decrease. For example, women with a disability at the time of the survey who were sexually abused during their childhood have odds 1.8 times higher than those who were not sexually abused during their childhood to have experienced violent victimization.

Two separate models were created to examine significant characteristics influencing the odds of violent victimization among women with a disability and men with a disability. All the variables in table 2 were considered, except sexual orientation (since the question was not asked of all respondents). Only variables that proved significant in the multivariate analysis were retained in the final models presented in this report.

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