Domestic violence is a major issue we face in the world today. While everyone regardless of age, race, class, and gender can be a victim of abuse, women and children are more likely to experience it. In fact, over one in four women and one in six men in the world experience domestic abuse. But how many are victims in Canada? Is it also more prevalent in women than men in this country?
In this article, we will discuss the current domestic abuse statistics in Canada and other important facts you need to know.
Important reminder: If you are a victim of domestic violence or would like to report a case of abuse, please call 9-1-1 if you’re in Canada or you can call one of the crisis lines in your area.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to multiple forms of harm or abuse that are caused by a current or former spouse or intimate partner. It can also happen in different forms of relationships including:
- Within marriage, dating relationship, or common law
- Regardless of the gender and sexual orientation of the partners
- During the relationship and even after it has ended
- Whether or not partners are sexually intimate with one another or living together
According to WHO, IPV is one of the major global health public concerns which affects millions of people and can result in immediate and irreparable health, social, and economic consequences. It can impact people of all ages, genders, racial, educational, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. But women account for most of the victims of this type of abuse, in which men are often the perpetrator. Children can also be victims and this can cause serious impacts on them.
Domestic abuse can happen in both public and private areas, and even in the digital world. While many people think that violence is only limited to physical assault, it comes in many different forms including:
- Physical abuse: This form uses physical force whether threatened or intentional, such as hitting, pushing, slapping, shoving, strangulation, etc.
- Stalking (also referred to as criminal harassment): Repeated conduct that threatens the safety of you or your loved one. This can include repeated obscene phone calls, following, tracking, watching, and constantly reaching out whether through texts, email, or any messaging apps.
- Emotional and psychological abuse: Another form of violence that toys with emotions or uses psychological tactics to harm an individual. This can come as insults, intimidation, threats of harm, belittling, constant humiliation, threats to harm pets or children, threats to take away children, or harming pets.
- Sexual violence: This IPV includes sexual acts without consent, forcing someone to watch or participate in a pornographic film, threats of consequence for refusing sexual activity, sexually degrading language, and belittling sexual comments.
- Spiritual abuse: This uses a partner’s spiritual belief to control or dominate them.
- Financial or economic abuse: This refers to the control and exploitation of assets, money, or property. It also includes restriction of a partner’s access to school or a job.
- Cyberviolence (also called technology-facilitated violence): The use of technology to facilitate virtual or personal harm such as tracking a partner’s location to intimidate, scare or humiliate a partner and bugging devices to observe and listen to a person.
Unfortunately, many abuse victims are not aware that they are in a toxic relationship and are currently experiencing IPV. According to a research by Cosmopolitan and Women aid, two-thirds of the 122,000 women participants claimed that they have never been in an abusive relationship, but have actually been in one–they weren’t just able to see the signs.
2022 Canada Domestic Abuse Statistics
Note: Like other cases of violence, victims of domestic abuse don’t report their experience to the authorities due to a variety of reasons including fear of shame/stigma, fear of court intervention, the belief that it’s a private matter, or lack of trust in the justice system. Taking this into account, the statistics below are those cases that have been reported.
According to the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, there were 358, 244 victims of police-reported violence in the country last 2019. Three out of ten victims or 30% were victimized by an intimate partner–a total of 107,810 reported domestic abuse victims. The violence is often perpetrated by a current partner: 36% of the abusers is a current boyfriend or girlfriend and 29% is a spouse. Former partners are also guilty of violence with 21% of abusers an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend and 12% an ex-spouse.
While only 53% of victims of violence were female, the majority of domestic abuse victims are female, accounting for 79% of the total victims. Like the other years, IPV is 3.5 times more prevalent in women than men with 536 women vs. 149 men per 100,000 population. However, the rate of domestic violence in men is significantly increasing between 2018 and 2019, with male victims increasing by 10% and females by only 5%.
As the pandemic started, the fear of domestic violence increased in Canada. From a web survey conducted by the Canadian government in 2020, 8% of the participants were extremely concerned about the violence at home. But COVID-19 didn’t have significant effects on IPB as the police-reported family violence has only a slight increase of 1.5% from the previous year.
However, this data does not reflect all of the cases in 2020. While the pandemic may not have directly impacted the reported cases, it created additional barriers for victims of domestic abuse. Because of the fear of contracting the virus, many victims didn’t seek help. At the same time, reports from third-party witnesses such as friends have declined during the pandemic.
Spousal abuse is a type of domestic abuse that happens in marriage. This can include unhealthy and destructive behaviours like coercive control, emotional and financial abuse, physical and sexual assault, and sometimes can lead to homicide. At an international level, this type of violence is considered a public health issue.
From the same report published in the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, 29% of abuse was perpetrated by a spouse. But what’s more interesting is that a higher proportion of the victims claimed that they experienced violence from a former spouse, with 11% of people having been subjected to abuse from a former partner, according to a report on Spousal violence in Canada, 2019.
The report also states that women are more likely to experience abuse from a former spouse compared to men (13% vs. 7.7%) 74% of the victims experienced spousal abuse while they were still living together, with 45% of those experiencing violence after the separation. Of the 45%, 38% of those said the abuse occurred more than six months after their separation.
Among the victims who claimed that the abuse happened after they have been separated from their spouse, nearly 38% of those said that the reason for separation is their partner’s violent behaviour. This is more common among women (49%) than men (22%). However, a large majority (80%) of spousal abuse victims said that they never reported their experience to the police.
How Do Domestic Abuse Affect Workplaces?
Domestic violence can carry over into the workplace, which can threaten the victim’s ability to have economic independence. According to Toronto City Government statistics, workplaces are also affected by domestic violence with Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually because of the direct and indirect effects of IPV.
The report states that 33% of Canadian workers, particularly in Toronto, have experienced domestic violence. 35% of workers have at least one co-worker who is experiencing or have experienced abuse and 12% claimed that they believe that at least one of their co-workers is being abusive to a partner. Of those who experience domestic abuse, 54% of the victims say that it continued even while they were at work. 82% of them claim that it negatively affected their performance and 38% say that it has impacted their ability to get to work.
Domestic Abuse in Women
Domestic violence is a global health problem that has detrimental effects. McGill University partnered with the World Health Organization to analyze 366 studies involving more than 2 million women aged 15 and older in 161 countries who have experienced intimate partner violence.
The study published in The Lancet says that domestic violence against women – which includes physical, emotional, and sexual violence by boyfriends, spouses, and other partners – is highly prevalent globally. According to the study, one in seven women (13% of the participants) experienced domestic abuse from 2000 to 2018. It also found high levels of violence against young women, with around 24% of those ages 15 to 19 experiencing abuse in their lifetime.
These numbers are already alarming, but the true scale of domestic abuse is likely to be even higher, as the researchers noted that the studies were based on self-reported experiences, and because of the stigma around the issue, women are more hesitant to report their experiences.
How to Know if a Relationship Is Abusive
Abuse comes in many forms, and often, it’s too hard to recognize them when you’re in an intimate relationship. This can include different types of abuse such as social, sexual, emotional, financial, physical, and more. In some cases, a number of these kinds of abuse can happen all at once.
Intimate partner violence happens between two people in a relationship when one person exercises power to control the other person. This usually results in physical and psychological harm. It can be a single act or a series of acts. If you think you are in an abusive relationship, here are some signs that you should look out for:
- Overly jealous partner, especially when others are around
- Intentionally breaks or threatens to destroy your things
- Calls you names, belittle or threatens you
- Constantly blames you when things go wrong
- Physically assaulting you including pushing, punching, hitting, slapping, and more
- Hits the walls
- Yells at you
- Threatens to harm you, your pet, or your family
- Harms your pet
- Threatens self-harm or suicide
Sometimes, abuse will also make you feel like you’re obligated to:
- Ask their permission to go out of the house
- Ask for approval to spend money
- Take the blame when things go wrong
- Do whatever your partner wants you to do
- Make excuses for your partner’s behaviour
You also need to watch how you feel. Sometimes, abusers manipulate your feelings so they can control you. Here are some things you should watch out for:
- Fear of making any decisions that your partner won’t approve
- Feeling isolated from your friends and family
- Fear of expressing your opinions
- Fear of saying no to your partner
- Fear of leaving the relationship
If any of those mentioned above sounds familiar, you may be experiencing abuse. If you are, reach out to any of these crisis lines immediately to get the support you need.
The Canadian government is trying its best to eradicate the problem and provide help to the victims of abuse. It introduces the Family Violence Prevention Program (FVPP), which funds the operations of shelters and transitional housing that can help improve the safety and security of IPV victims. While this may not stop the abuse, this can provide the support victims need to heal from the violence.
If you are currently in an abusive relationship, you can still try and change its state. The first thing you need to do is be aware. Be aware of your own relationships and dare to object when certain behaviours cross the line. If you think a friend is currently in one, see how their partners are treating them and provide them with the support they need.