Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Profile Series

    Multiple Victimization in Canada, 2004


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    A large proportion of all victimization incidents are experienced by a relatively small number of victims who experienced multiple incidents. According to the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization, a little more than 10% of the population aged 15 and over were the victims of more than one crime during the 12 months preceding the survey, representing 60% of all criminal incidents. If one considers only violent crimes, 2% of the population accounted for 60% of all violent victimization reported to the GSS.

    Given that a small proportion of individuals and households face a significant proportion of crimes, as a result determining which characteristics increases a person's risk of being victimized will help to improve the effectiveness of crime prevention measures, and perhaps help prevent further incidents of victimization.

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    Distinguishing between multiple and repeat victimization

    Multiple and repeat victimization have been the subject of several studies and are sometimes defined in different ways. On several occasions the two terms have been interchanged and defined the same way (Farrell and Pease, 1993). However, repeat victimization can refer to a somewhat different experience. Multiple victimization, in general, is applicable to individuals who have been victims of crime on more than one occasion during a given period (DeValve, 2004). Multiple victimization can also be considered repeat victimization which is when an individual is the victim on more than one occasion, of the same type of crime committed by the same offender and in which the circumstances of the incident are similar (Outlaw, Ruback & Britt, 2002).

    While repeat victimization may exhibit different characteristics and consequences for the victims than non-repeat multiple victimization, the low frequency of repeat victimization makes analysis difficult. As such, repeat victimization will be included under multiple victimization for this study.

    Using data from the 2004 General Social Survey on Victimization, this profile will look at the prevalence of multiple victimization and the socio-demographic factors that may place people at higher risk of experiencing multiple victimizations.

    The analysis will distinguish between violent victimizations directed at an individual (excluding spousal abuse) and household crimes that are non-violent in nature and are directed at property. As such, when analyzing violent multiple victimizations, only victims of multiple violent crimes will be considered. Furthermore, the analysis of a specific crime type will focus on those who have been victims of that specific crime more than once. Otherwise, multiple victimization will include all those persons who were the victim of a crime on more than one occasion in the 12 months preceding the survey, where the crimes in question could be any crime included in the survey.

    This profile will present a comparative analysis of persons who were victims of more than one crime and persons who were victims of only one crime during the 12 months prior to the survey. In addition, it will compare individuals who have been victims of a criminal act to those who have not been victimized. It will look at the differences in their perceptions of crime, social disorder and police performance as well as their fear of crime.

    Among those Canadians who reported being victims of a crime during the 12 months preceding the 2004 survey, 38% said they had been victimized more than once. This pattern is similar to what was observed in the 1999 survey on victimization. Of those Canadians who reported that they were victimized more than once, half of them were victimized twice, while the other half were victimized three or more times.

    Research to date has shown that not all people are equally at risk of being victims of crime. Some demographic groups are at greater risk of experiencing crime. The first section of this report examines those socio-demographic characteristics associated with a greater risk of experiencing multiple violent victimizations.

    Similarly there are some household characteristics that place them at risk of being targets of household crime. For example, property crimes (i.e. crimes committed against households) such as break-ins, vehicle thefts, vandalism and thefts of personal property are associated with the attractiveness of the home or property to the offender. These considerations will be discussed later in this article.

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    Types of offences

    The 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) measured the extent of criminal victimization by looking at three types of violent crime, theft of personal property and four types of household property crime, according to their definitions in the Criminal Code.

    When an incident included more than one type of crime, it was classified according to the most serious offence. The rank of offences from most to least serious is sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, break and enter, motor vehicle/ parts theft, theft of personal property, theft of household property and vandalism.

    Violent offences:

    Sexual assault: Forced sexual activity, an attempt at forced sexual activity, or unwanted sexual touching, grabbing, kissing or fondling.
    Robbery: Theft or attempted theft in which the perpetrator had a weapon or there was violence or the threat of violence against the victim.
    Assault: An attack (victim hit, slapped, grabbed, knocked down or beaten), a face-to-face threat of physical harm, or an incident with a weapon present.

    Non-violent offences:

    Theft of personal property: Theft or attempted theft of personal property such as money, credit cards, clothing, jewellery, a purse or a wallet (unlike robbery, the perpetrator does not confront the victim).

    Household offences:

    Break and enter: Illegal entry or attempted entry into a residence or other building on the victim's property.
    Motor vehicle/parts theft: Theft or attempted theft of a car, truck, van, motorcycle, moped or other vehicle or part of a motor vehicle.
    Theft of household property: Theft or attempted theft of household property such as liquor, bicycles, electronic equipment, tools or appliances.
    Vandalism: Wilful damage of personal or household property, theft or attempted theft of personal property such as money, credit cards, clothing, jewellery, a purse or a wallet (unlike robbery, the perpetrator does not confront the victim).

    One third of victims of violent offences and one quarter of victims of property crimes are victims of multiple incidents1, 2

    Among the 5% of Canadians who reported being the victim of a violent offence during the year prior to the survey, one third (33%) indicated experiencing more than one violent incident during this period. As for the 19% of Canadians who were victims of a property crime, one quarter of them had their household victimized two or more times (Table 1).

    Table 1 Types of crime experienced by victims, 2004


    1. Unless otherwise stated, the differences reported in this profile are statistically significant. For more information, see the "Methodology" section.
    2. Incidences of sexual assault and assault committed by the spouse, common-law partner, ex-spouse or ex-partner are excluded from this analysis.
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