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Canada's Shelters for Abused Women, 2005/2006

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By Andrea Taylor-Butts, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

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Data on annual admissions to shelters are under revision due to incorrect reporting by a survey respondent. Revised data will be released when available.

About 7% of women and 6% of men across the country are the victims of violence at the hands of a current or former spouse or common-law partner, according to results from the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization. Specifically, the 2004 GSS indicated that some 653,000 women and 546,000 men in Canada were the victims of spousal violence in the five years preceding the survey. While spousal violence victimization rates are similar for women and men, the nature and consequences of spousal violence differ by sex. Women tend to experience more harsh forms of violence (e.g., beaten, chocked, sexually assaulted), and repeated incidents of violence compared to male victims (Mihorean 2005; Pottie Bunge and Locke 2000). Additionally, women were twice as likely as men to be injured as a result of spousal violence (44% versus 19%); six times more likely to seek medical attention (13% versus 2%); twice as likely to suffer negative psychological consequences such as depression or anxiety attacks (21% versus 9%) and were three times more likely to fear for their lives (34% versus 10%) (Mihorean, 2005).

Differences in the type and impact of spousal violence experienced by men and women may contribute to differences men and women display in seeking help. Female spousal violence victims are more likely than male victims to turn to informal sources of support (83% versus 60%) and are more likely than male victims to seek assistance from a social service (47% and 20%, respectively) (Mihorean, 2005). While informal forms of support such as family, friends and neighbours are the most common types of help sought by both male and female victims, one in ten female victims of spousal violence indicate that they used a shelter or transition home (Mihorean, 2005).

Shelters for abused women form an integral part of a larger network of services for those victimized by crime; they represent the residential compliment to other programs and services for victims of abuse. According to the 2002/2003 Victim Services Survey (VSS), there were about 600 victim services agencies across Canada providing non-residential services to victims of crime; two-thirds of these agencies were mandated to serve adult victims of spousal abuse (Kong, 2004). These services offer domestic violence victims a variety of resources such as information, emotional support, liaison services and court accompaniment. The VSS found that spousal violence victims constitute about one-third (or 2,500) of all victims served by these agencies and programs and the vast majority (94%) of those served are female (Kong, 2004).

In 2006 there were 553 shelters providing residential services to women and children fleeing abusive situations in Canada, according to the 2005/2006 Transition Home Survey (THS) – a biennial census of all residential facilities for female victims of domestic violence. Admissions of women and children to these shelters reached just over 105,700 in the 12-month period beginning April 1, 2005 and the cost of operating these facilities totalled approximately $317 million.1 And while not all residents of these shelters were fleeing domestic abuse, a majority were.


  1. The Transition Home Survey (THS) covers a fiscal-year period (e.g., April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006). However for the purposes of this report, the surveys' respective ending years will be used to refer to each cycle of the THS. Therefore, for example, the 2005/2006 THS will be referred to simply as the 2006 THS; the 2003/2004 THS will be referred to as the 2004 THS and so on.

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