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- Overall rates of violent victimization are comparable between males and females
- Female rates of violent victimization higher in a majority of jurisdictions
- Rates of violent victimization higher for women than for men in many of Canada's largest cities
- Age makes a difference in the rate of victimization between the sexes
- Profile of the accused
- Men and women are victims of different types of violent crime
- Physical assaults
- Sexual assaults
- Other violent offences
Police-reported data show that the risk of violent victimization among adult males (aged 18 years of age and over) is comparable to that of adult females. Adult females accounted for 51% or about 152,000 of the 298,000 victims of violent incidents 1 reported to the police in 2008, while some 146,000 victims were male (Table 1, Table 2).
There are many consequences associated with being a victim of a violent crime including injuries, increased stress levels and disruption to day-to-day activities. According to the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization, 24% of victims who sustained injuries due to a violent victimization sought medical attention and 20% required bed rest. In addition, 81% of victims experienced some form of emotional reaction such as anger, confusion or being fearful, and one-third reported having problems sleeping (AuCoin and Beauchamp, 2007).
Being a victim of a violent crime may lead individuals to question their perceptions of crime levels in their neighbourhood and their overall safety. For more than half (52%) of victims of violent crime, the experience had an impact on their day-to-day activities (AuCoin and Beauchamp, 2007).
Despite comparable overall rates of police-reported violent victimization, the data show that women and men experience differences in the types of violence experienced, the type of weapon used against them and the level of injury sustained.
This profile examines the nature and extent of gender differences in police-reported violent victimization between male and female adults aged 18 years and over. It analyses gender differences in victimization based on the prevalence across the provinces and territories, the type of violent offence, the location of the incident, the presence and type of weapon used, the level of injury to the victim, the victim's relationship to the perpetrator, and the age of the victim.
The analysis primarily uses police-reported data collected through the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) Survey, as well as some data from the Homicide Survey. It is important to note, however, that police-reported data reflect only those incidents that have come to the attention of the police. The 2004 GSS on Victimization, for instance, estimated that 61% of adult males and 74% of adult females who had been violently victimized did not report the incident to the police.
According to the 2004 GSS, victims of violent crime may not report their victimization to the police for various reasons. For example, the victim may choose to deal with the incident in another way, feel that the incident was not important enough to warrant contacting the police or not want the police to be involved.
Overall rates of violent victimization are comparable betweenmales and females
Police-reported data show that in 2008, the rate of violent victimization for female and male victims was comparable, at 1,155 and 1,150 per 100,000 population, respectively (Table 1, Table 2). Moreover, throughout the preceding 5-year period from 2004 to 2008, the rates of violent victimization for men and women remained relatively stable (Chart 1). 2
Female rates of violent victimization higher in a majorityof jurisdictions
Even though for Canada as a whole the rates of violent victimization were virtually the same for both sexes, there were some notable differences in the rates of victimization for men and women in some provinces and territories. For instance, in 2008, female rates of violent victimization were higher than rates for males in 10 of the 13 provinces and territories, most notably Nunavut and Northwest Territories as well as Saskatchewan (Table 3). Conversely, male rates of violent victimization were higher than female rates in British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia, 3 while for New Brunswick there was almost no difference in the rate of victimization between the sexes.
Rates of violent victimization higher for women than formen in many of Canada's largest cities
Gender differences in the rates of violent victimization against males and females were also observed in many of Canada's Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA). 4 For example, in 2008, Thunder Bay reported the greatest difference in the rate of violent victimization for women (1,780) compared to men (1,359) (Table 4). Also, in the CMAs of Peterborough, Kitchener, Brantford, Windsor, Greater Sudbury and Regina, female rates of violence were considerably higher than male rates. Conversely, in 2008, male rates of victimization were higher compared to female rates in the CMAs of Trois-Rivières, Victoria, Sherbrooke, Vancouver and Québec.
Overall in 2008, the highest rates of violent victimization against men were found in the CMAs of Saskatoon, Saint John and Halifax, while for women, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay and Regina were cities with the highest rates of violent victimization (Table 4).
Age makes a difference in the rate of victimization betweenthe sexes
For both men and women, rates of police-reported violent victimization were highest among young adults aged 18 to 24, and lowest among seniors aged 65 and over. However, when sex is taken into account among the various age groups, a notable difference in the risk of victimization is observed (Chart 2). Females between the ages of 18 and 44 reported higher rates of violent victimization compared to male victims within the same age categories, with females 18 to 24 years of age having the highest rate of victimization of all victims, regardless of age or sex. However after age 44, the rates of violent victimization were higher for males compared with their female counterparts.
Profile of the accused
In general, women most often reported being victimized by men regardless of crime type, and this was the case as well for male victims. Men were considered the accused in 81% of cases of violent victimization against women, and in 79% of cases of violent victimization against males; whereas females accounted for 10% of victimizations against females and 10% against males. These findings are supported by results from other studies in the United States, where the majority of perpetrators that came to the attention of the criminal justice system were men (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006; Heimer and Lauritsen, 2008; U.S. Department of Justice, 2009).
Men and women are victims of different types of violent crime
Gender differences in police-reported victimization are seen in the types of violent offences experienced by male and female victims. Males, for example, are more likely to be the victims of physical assault and homicide, while sexual assault victims are overwhelmingly female. Beyond the differences in the types of violent victimization they suffer, there are also gender-based distinctions in the characteristics surrounding the violent crime such as the relationship between the victim and accused, the involvement of weapons and where the crime took place.
Victims of more serious forms of physical assault reported to police were more likely to be men 5
In 2008, the rate of police-reported physical assaults against men (779 per 100,000 population) was slightly greater than that for women (711 per 100,000 population). However, male and female victims reported different types of physical assault. Females were more likely than males to be victims of common assault, the form of assault resulting in the least serious physical injury (576 per 100,000 females and 484 per 100,000 males), while males were more likely than females to be victims of more serious forms of physical assault (Table 1, Table 2).
The rate of assault with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm (level 2) among men (215 per 100,000 population) was nearly double that for women (114 per 100,000 population). However, the most significant difference between male and female victims of assault was found for aggravated assault. 6 The police-reported rate for male victims of aggravated assault (18 per 100,000 population) was more than three times higher than the rate for female victims (5 per 100,000 population) (Table 1, Table 2). Similar gender differences were also found in the United States where, in 2004, the rate of aggravated assault against males was double that of females (Lauritsen and Heimer, 2008).
In addition, while physical force was more common in incidents of physical assault against female victims (54%) compared to males (44%), men were more frequently the victims of an assault involving a weapon (16% of incidents against men versus 8% for women). Moreover, more than twice the proportion of male victims (5%) of physical assault sustained major injuries compared to their female counterparts (2%) 7 (Table 5, Table 6).
Men are physically assaulted in a public place outside the home more often than women
For both male and female victims of physical assault, the most common location for the assault was in a residential setting. Nearly three-quarters of physical assaults against women and 42% of assaults against men occurred in this setting. A large proportion (29%) of male victims were assaulted in a public place such as a parking lot, a transit bus/bus shelter or in the street while this was the case for a smaller proportion of female victims (13%) (Table 5, Table 6).
Women more often physically assaulted by a spouse, men by a stranger
Female victims of physical assault were more often victimized by someone with whom they had a current or former intimate relationship. According to police-reported data, almost one-third (29%) of women physically assaulted in 2008 had been victimized by a current or former spouse; this compares to 7% of male victims. Additionally, another 22% of female victims were physically assaulted by someone they were currently dating or had formerly dated; this compares to 5% of male victims.
Male victims, in contrast, were most often physically assaulted by a stranger (32%) or by someone else outside of the family (29%) such as a friend, acquaintance or business partner.
Overall, there was a female victim in 81% of physical assaults committed by a spouse, while males accounted for about the same proportion of physical assaults committed by a stranger (Table 5, Table 6).
Similar patterns of gender differences were found in the United States. For example, of the 11.6 million cases of violent victimization against males and females 12 years of age or older, 6.6 million were committed against men. In the majority of these cases a stranger had committed the violence (3.9 million), whereas a person known to the victim was more likely to have been implicated in the victimization of women (3 million) (Craven, 1994).
Police-reported sexual assault rate more than 10 times higher for female victims compared to males
In 2008, the rate of police-reported sexual assault against females (68 per 100,000 population) was more than 10 times the rate for males (6 per 100,000 population), with females accounting for 92% of sexual assault victims in Canada. Overall rates of sexual assaults for female victims are significantly greater than males across each age group (Table 1, Table 2).
It is worth noting that sexual assaults go unreported to police more often than other types of violent offences, regardless of whether the victim is female or male. According to the 2004 GSS on Victimization, about 8% of sexual assaults were reported to police, compared to about 40% of physical assaults and about half of robberies (Brennan and Taylor-Butts, 2008). Furthermore, male and female victims showed no significant difference in their likelihood of reporting sexual assaults to police.
More than one-quarter of female victims of sexual assault suffered a physical injury
Regardless of whether the victim was male or female, physical force was used against the victim in 95% of sexual assaults. While two-thirds (60%) of police-reported sexual assaults against females did not result in a physical injury, 24% resulted in minor physical injuries requiring some first aid but no professional medical treatment (Table 5, Table 6).
Higher proportion of sexual assaults against male victims occur in institutional settings
Sexual assaults most often occurred in residential locations. Nearly 2 out of 3 (59%) sexual assault victimizations of females occurred in a private residence as did 48% of sexual assaults against males. However, for male victims of sexual assault, the proportion of those victimized in an institutional setting (16%) such as a school, university or college or other non-commercial or corporate place was more than 2.5 times greater than the proportion of females sexually assaulted in this type of location (Table 5, Table 6).
Accused in incidents of sexual assaults against male and female are often known to the victim
In nearly half of police-reported sexual assaults against both male (47%) and female (44%) victims, the accused was someone known to the victim (e.g., friend, acquaintance, or current/former dating partner) but was not a family member. Strangers were the perpetrators in one-quarter of all police-reported sexual assaults committed against men (19%) and women (24%) (Table 5, Table 6).
There were, however, some notable gender-based differences in the relationship between the victim and the accused in cases of sexual assaults coming to the attention of police. For example, women were more likely than men to have been sexually assaulted by a current or former spouse. In 2008, the accused was a current or former spouse in 8% of police-reported sexual assaults against females compared to 1% of sexual assaults where the victim was male. As well, a current or former dating partner was identified as the accused more often in sexual assaults against women (7%) compared to men (1%). Male victims of sexual assault, however, were more often victimized by family members other than spouses or ex-spouses and by friends and acquaintances, in comparison to female sexual assault victims (Table 5, Table 6).
While men were more likely to be the victim of a homicide, female homicide victims were more often killed by a spouse
From 2004 to 2008, homicides accounted for less than 1% of all violent crimes reported to police in Canada. Adult males were more likely than adult females to be a homicide victim, accounting for 74% of victims of homicide during this 5-year period.
Nevertheless, compared to men, women were more often killed by a current or former spouse (38% of female homicides versus 4% of male homicides) and were at greater risk of being the victim of a spousal homicide. From 2004 to 2008, females accounted for more than three-quarters of spousal homicide victims (275 of 351) (Table 7). Just over one quarter of female homicide victims (28%) were killed by a current spouse, compared to 3% of male victims, and another 10% of female homicides were perpetrated by an ex-spouse (versus 1% of male homicide victims). Females were also more often killed by an intimate partner such as a boyfriend or girlfriend (8%) than male homicide victims (2%). About 18% of female homicide victims were killed by a friend or acquaintance and 5% were killed by a stranger (Table 7).
Men, in comparison, were much more likely to be killed by someone other than a spouse. In 4 in 10 homicides involving male victims, the accused was either a friend or an acquaintance and in 15% of male homicides the accused was a stranger.
Homicides with male victims more likely to involve firearms and gangs
Between 2004 and 2008, weapons were involved in a majority of male homicides (84%) and in a substantial proportion (72%) of female homicides. While firearms were more commonly used than other weapons in homicides, they were more likely used against male versus female homicide victims. More than one-third (38%) of male victims of homicide were killed with a firearm, compared to 20% of female homicide victims. In fact, from 2004 to 2008, more men were killed using a firearm (785) than women by any other method (732). Female victims, on the other hand, were more likely than male victims to have a "other weapon" used against them. Specifically, they were 3 times more likely than males to have been killed by explosives, motor vehicle, fire, or any device used to poison (12% vs 4%) (Table 7). In addition, a larger proportion of female homicide victims (18%) were killed as the result of physical force compared to male victims (13%).
Homicides involving gang-related activity were also more common among male victims compared with female victims. From 2004 to 2008, nearly one-quarter (24%) of homicides involving a male victim were either gang-related or suspected of being gang-related, compared with 3% of female homicides (Table 7).
Motives surrounding a homicide vary according to the sex of the victim
While the apparent motive for homicide was more commonly an argument or quarrel, irrespective of the victim's sex, there were some gender-based variations. For example, compared to male victims, female victims were about 3 times as likely to be killed out of frustration, anger, despair (21%), and nearly 4 times as likely to be the victim of a homicide motivated by jealousy (12%) or sexual violence (4%). In contrast, a settling-of-account (drug or gang-related) (20%) was the apparent motive in nearly one-fifth of male homicides compared to 3% of female homicides. Male homicide victims (7%) were about twice as likely to be killed out of revenge as female victims (3%) (Table 7).
Other violent offences
Men more often the victims of robberies, while women more likely to be victims of criminal harassment
Police-reported data also indicate that some notable gender differences exist among other categories of violent crime such as robbery, criminal harassment and uttering threats.
According to police-reported rates, women were the victims of robbery about half as often as men, but were almost 3 times more likely to suffer criminal harassment. In 2008, while males accounted for 65% of robbery victims, 8 females were victims in 73% of criminal harassment crimes (Table 5, Table 6).
While rates for uttering threats were more similar for men (184 per 100,000 population) and women (156 per 100,000 population), there were some differences between the sexes in terms of who was identified as the perpetrator.
Similar to patterns seen among physical and sexual assaults, female victims of criminal threats were more often victimized by a spouse or dating partner than were male victims. In particular, the proportion of females (18%) threatened by a spouse or ex-spouse was 6 times higher compared to their male counterparts (3%). The proportion of female victims threatened by a current or former dating partner (12%) was also about 6 times higher than for male victims (2%) of uttering threat offences. In contrast, males (24%) were about twice as likely as females (12%) to be threatened by a stranger.
Police-reported data show that males and females experience similar rates of violent victimization. However, there are some telling differences between the sexes in the nature of their victimization. For instance, males and females experience different types of physical assault. Males were more likely to be victims of more serious assaults (level 2 and 3), and have a weapon used against them; while females were more likely to be victims of common assault, resulting in fewer injuries than their male counterparts. Furthermore, female victims of physical assault were more often victimized by a spouse, whereas males were more often assaulted by someone who was not known to them such as a stranger. In addition, females were 10 times more likely than males to be victims of sexual assault.
Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey
The Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) Survey collects detailed information on individual criminal incidents reported to police, including characteristics of victims, accused persons and incidents. The 2008 data are based upon information reported by police services covering 98% of the population of Canada.
The UCR2 Trend Database contains historical data that permit the analysis of trends in the characteristics of incidents, accused and victims, such as victim-accused relationship. This database currently includes 63 police services that have reported to the UCR2 Survey consistently since 1999. These respondents accounted for 54% of the population of Canada in 2008. Provincially, this database accounts for 36% of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador, 18% of the population of New Brunswick, 99% of the population of Quebec, 52% of the population of Ontario, 47% of the population of Saskatchewan, 55% of the population of Alberta and 14% of the population of British Columbia.
The Homicide Survey began collecting police-reported data on homicide incidents, victims and accused persons in Canada in 1961, and began collecting data on family-related homicides in 1974. When a homicide becomes known to the police, the investigating police department completes a survey questionnaire, which is then forwarded to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. The count for a particular year represents all homicides reported in that year, regardless of when the death actually occurred.
Family and non-family – Relationship is determined by establishing the identity of the accused in relation to the victim. Family members include spouses (current and ex-spouses), parents, children, siblings, or other persons related to the victim by blood, marriage or other legal relationship (e.g., adoption). All other relationships are considered to be non-family.
Homicide and attempted murder – This category includes a number of violations that either attempt to cause death or cause death including: 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, manslaughter and infanticide, attempted murder and conspire to commit murder, criminal negligence causing death and other related offences causing death.
Other violations involving violence or the threat of violence – This category includes kidnapping/forcible confinement, hostage taking, robbery, extortion, criminal harassment (or stalking), indecent or harassing telephone calls, uttering threats, explosives causing death or bodily harm, arson and other violations against the person.
Physical assault – refers to four categories of physical assaults including:
- Common assault – This includes the Criminal Code category of assault level 1. This is the least serious form of assault and includes pushing, slapping, punching and face-to-face verbal threats.
- Assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm – Assault level 2 involves carrying, using or threatening to use a weapon against someone or causing someone bodily harm.
- Aggravated assault – Assault level 3 involves wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of someone.
- Other assaults – This category includes unlawfully causing bodily harm, discharge a firearm with intent, using a firearm during the commission of an offence, pointing a firearm, assault against a peace officer, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and other forms of assault.
Sexual assault – refers to four categories of sexual violations including:
- Sexual assault – Level 1 sexual assaults involve minor physical injuries or no injuries to the victim.
- Sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm – Level 2 sexual assaults include sexual assault with a weapon, threats or causing bodily harm.
- Aggravated sexual assault – Level 3 sexual assaults result in wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of the victim.
- Other sexual crimes – includes a group of offences that are primarily meant to address incidents of sexual abuse directed at children including sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, incest, corrupting children, luring a child via a computer, anal intercourse, bestiality and voyeurism.
AuCoin, Kathy and Diane Beauchamp. 2007. "Impacts and consequences of victimization, GSS 2004." Juristat. Vol. 27, no. 1. Statistics Canada. Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE. Ottawa. /pub/85-002-x/85-002-x2007001-eng.htm (Accessed January 20, 2010)
Brennan, Shannon and Andrea Taylor-Butts. 2008. "Sexual assault in Canada." Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Profile Series. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85F0033M. No. 19. Ottawa. /pub/85f0033m/85f0033m2008019-eng.htm (Accessed January 20, 2010)
Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2006. Criminal victimization in the U.S. , 2004. Statistical tables. Washington. DC. U.S. Department of Justice. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1102 (Accessed March 29, 2010).
Craven, Diane. 1994. "Sex differences in violent victimization." Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. NCJ-164508. p. 1-9. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/sdvv.pdf (Accessed March 29, 2010).
Heimer, Karen and Janet L. Lauritsen. 2008. "Gender and violence in the United States: Trends in offending and victimization."Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report. Committee on Understanding Crime Trends. National Academy of Sciences. p. 45-80. http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12472.html (Accessed March 29, 2010).
Lauritsen, Janet L. and Karen Heimer. 2008. "The gender gap in violent victimization, 1973-2004."Journal of Quantitative Criminology. Vol. 24, no. 2. p. 125-147. http://www.springerlink.com/content/f382gk533142x349/ (Accessed February 11, 2010).
U.S. Department of Justice. 2009 Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice. http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/225722.pdf (Accessed March 29, 2010).