Violence Against Women: The Facts

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Get to Know the Facts about Violence Against Women and Children in Canada



Thank you to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children, Status of Women Canada, and Ontario Association for Interval and Transition Houses for providing us with the illuminating research data detailed below.



Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a way to describe violence against women and girls that results from social inequality, sexism, and misogyny. Women and girls who also experience racism, classism, heterosexism, transphobia and other forms of oppression are even more vulnerable to GBV. GBV includes physical, sexual, psychological, financial, spiritual, and emotional abuse, as well as the threat of such acts, coercion, and the arbitrary deprivation of liberty such as forced marriage, kidnapping, and trafficking.

GBV can be perpetrated by just about anyone, including intimate partners, families, landlords, traffickers, and even governments, politicians, and the police.


What about violence against men?

When violence occurs, the victims are overwhelmingly female. 83% of all police-reported domestic assaults are against women. This pattern is consistent for every province and territory across Canada. Violence against women and girls happens because they are women and girls, and the social expectations and inequality of their gender – that’s why it’s called gender-based violence.

In spousal violence, three times as many women experience serious violence such as choking, beating, being threatened with a knife or gun, and sexual violence. Women are more likely to be physically injured, to get a restraining order, and to fear for their lives. For the past 30 years in Canada, women are three to four times as likely to be killed by their spouse.

We do recognize there are many men who suffer abuse from their same sex partners and offer our support to them and help them to get the resources they need is any way we can. Shelters for men do exist, but they exist to provide roofs over the heads of men who are homeless, unlike women’s shelters, which are designed to protect women and children from abusive partners.


What is the impact of violence on the children? 

Adults often think that children are unaware of the violence that takes place within their families, but research shows that children see or hear between 40 to 80% of domestic violence assaults. According to the RCMP, a child who witnesses spousal violence is experiencing a form of child abuse, since research shows that “witnessing family violence is as harmful as experiencing it directly.”

In Canada, each year an average of 800,000 children witness a woman being abused. Not only are children who witness this violence at an immediate risk of being physically injured, but witnessing domestic violence also has many proven long-term impacts on children and youth. This includes vulnerabilities to emotional trauma, psychiatric disorders, poor brain development, suicide attempts, and more. In fact, children who witness violence often grow up to be victims of violence or abusers themselves, because they receive the message that violence is an acceptable and normal way to resolve conflicts.

This is why Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter invests in caring for children and youth, because we recognize that their needs are distinct from the needs of their mothers, and we believe in the importance of early intervention to break the cycle of abuse.


Why don’t women just leave their abusers?

Women often stay because the abuser has threatened to kill them, kill himself, and/or kill the children or pets if they leave. Women believe these threats, and for good reason, as the most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she attempts to leave her abuser. About 25% of all women who are murdered by their spouse had left the relationship. In one study, half of the murdered women were killed within two months of leaving the relationship.


How often do women return to their husbands? 

Despite our best efforts, women sometimes do return to the abusive situation and it can be for many reasons.  Perhaps her partner has said that he will change; sometimes the affordable housing situation is so dire that women feel they have no choice to go back; sometimes it’s because the person has threatened themselves or a pet; or sometimes, it’s because she feels the kids are better off in a two-parent family.

Regardless of the reason a woman returns to her violent spouse, she has become aware of her own strengths and possibilities while at the shelter, and that’s never lost.  Of course, if shelter staff have a compelling reason to believe that children may be in danger if their mother returns to her partner, we are legally obligated to contact Children’s Aid authorities. The mother is always fully aware if we have to proceed with this action.


Is violence against women still a serious problem? 

In 2017, in Ontario alone, there were 32 femicides. Femicide is commonly defined as the intentional murder of women because they are women.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has done some terrific work in helping us to understand the extent of violence against women in Canada.  Here are some of their overall statistics:

  • Every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
  • On any given night in Canada, over 6000 women and children sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe for them at home
  • Each year, over 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence—that’s about 12% of all violent crime in Canada. Since only 22% of all incidents are reported to the police, the real number is much higher.
  • In addition to sexism, there are many other forms of society inequality that compound abuse and violence, including racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and religious persecution. Women who experience multiple forms of oppression are even more vulnerable to violence.
  • Domestic violence carries over into the workplace, threatening women’s ability to maintain economic independence. More than half (53%) of respondents who had experienced domestic violence said that at least one type of abusive at happened at or near their workplace. Almost 40% of those who had experienced domestic abuse said it made it difficult to get to work, and 8.5% said they lost their jobs because of it.
  • Women are at greater risk of experiencing elder abuse from a family member, accounting for 60% of senior survivors of family violence.
  • Cyber violence, which includes online threats, harassment, and stalking, has emerged as an extension of violence against women. Young women (age 18-24) are most likely to experience online harassment in its most severe forms, including stalking, sexual harassment and physical threats.
  • Although research shows links between alcohol consumption and domestic violence, there is disagreement about whether alcohol can be considered a cause of violence. When it comes to use of alcohol, there is often a double standard: while alcohol consumption by an offender may be used to excuse their behaviour, victims who have been drinking are often blamed for their own victimization.
  • Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women. As of 2010, there were 582 known cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, but it is believed to actually be much higher. Both Amnesty International and the United Nations have called upon the Canadian government to take action on this issue, without success.
  • Newly immigrated women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources. Newcomers who arrive in Canada, traumatized by war or oppressive governments, are much less likely to report physical or sexual violence to the authorities, for fear of further victimization or even deportation.
  • Women who identified as lesbian or bisexual were three to four times more likely than heterosexual women to report experiencing spousal violence. Studies show that when women of colour report violence, their experiences are taken less seriously within the criminal justice system.
  • Women living with physical and cognitive impairments experience violence two to three times more often than women living without impairments. 60% of women with a disability experience some form of violence.
  • Domestic violence increases during times of crises, and national GBV rates increase following natural disasters like floors, wildfires, and hurricanes.
  • In just one year in Canada, 427,000 women over the age of 15 reported they had been sexually assaulted. Since only about 10% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police, the actual number is much higher.
  • Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
  • About 80% of sex trafficking victims in Canada are women and girls.
  • 67% of Canadians know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse.
  • More than one in ten Canadian women say they have been stalked by someone in a way that made them fear for their life.
  • Violence against women costs taxpayers and the government billions of dollars every year: Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence alone.


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