Many experts suggest that the amount of family violence may be much higher than the figures below indicate. This is because surveys, studies and police reports do not capture all cases of violence and abuse. For example, research has shown that many abuse victims do not – or cannot – report their abuse to the police. Most victims who do report spousal violence to the police had suffered more than one violent incident before reporting the latest abuse.
The following data are taken from Family violence in Canada – A statistical profile publication, highlighted on the Statistics Canada website. For information on getting help, see For Victims of Family Violence on the Department of Justice website.
Some Family Violence Statistics in Canada (Self-reported spousal violence, 2009)
• The 2009 General Social Survey (GSS) found that self-reported spousal violence remained stable from 2004, when the survey was last conducted. Similar to 2004, 6% of Canadians with a current or former spouse reported being physically or sexually victimized by their spouse in the 5 years preceding the survey.
• The proportion of Canadians who reported spousal violence was similar across the majority of provinces. The exceptions were in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec where the proportions were below the national average.
• Overall, the seriousness of violence experienced in spousal incidents remained stable between 2004 and 2009. The proportion of victims who reported the most serious forms of spousal violence such as being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or knife was similar to 2004.
• Younger Canadians were more likely to report being a victim of spousal violence than were older Canadians. Those aged 25 to 34 years old were three times more likely than those aged 45 and older to state that they had been physically or sexually assaulted by their spouse.
• In 2009, victims of spousal violence were less likely to report the incident to police than in 2004. Just under one-quarter (22%) of spousal violence victims stated that the incident came to the attention of the police, down slightly from 2004 (28%).
• In addition to physical and sexual violence, many Canadians also reported being the victim of emotional and financial abuse. As in 2004, close to one in five (17%) Canadians said that they had experienced some form of emotional or financial abuse in their current or previous relationship, with put-downs and name calling being the most common form of abuse.
Police-reported family violence against children and youth, 2009
• Police-reported data for 2009 indicate that children and youth under the age of 18 were most likely to be sexually victimized or physically assaulted by someone they knew (85% of incidents).
• Nearly 55,000 children and youth were the victims of a sexual offence or physical assault in 2009, about 3 in 10 of which were perpetrated by a family member.
• Six in ten children and youth victims of family violence were assaulted by their parents. The youngest child victims (under the age of three years) were most vulnerable to violence by a parent.
• In 2009, the rate of family-related sexual offences was more than four times higher for girls than for boys. The rate of physical assault was similar for girls and boys.
Police-reported family violence against seniors, 2009
• In 2009, police reported over 2,400 senior victims (65 years and older) of violent crime by a family member, representing about one-third of all violent incidents committed against older adults.
• Family violence against seniors tends to be lower compared to younger age groups. The rate for seniors in 2009 was less than half that for adults aged 55 to 64 and more than eight times lower than the rate for adults aged 25 to 34.
• Although the overall rate of violent victimization was higher for senior men than senior women, family-related violent victimization was higher among senior women. Senior men were more likely to be victimized by an acquaintance or a stranger than a family member.
• Spouses and grown children were the most common perpetrators of family violence against senior women, while grown children were most often the perpetrators of family violence against senior men.
• Just over half (53%) of police-reported family violence against seniors involved common assaults, the least serious form of assault.
• Six in ten police-reported incidents of family violence against seniors did not result in physical injury. When physical injuries were sustained, the vast majority were relatively minor in nature.
Family-related homicides, 2000 to 2009
• Between 2000 and 2009, there were 738 spousal homicides, representing 16% of all solved homicides and nearly half (47%) of all family-related homicides.
• The 2009 spousal homicide rate remained stable for the third consecutive year. This follows nearly three decades of gradual decline.
• Women continue to be more likely than men to be victims of spousal homicide. In 2009, the rate of spousal homicide against women was about three times higher than that for men.
• Between 2000 and 2009, men were most likely to be killed by a common-law partner (66%) whereas women were slightly more likely to have been killed by their legally married spouse (39%) than by a common-law partner (33%). In addition, female victims of spousal homicide were more likely than male victims to be killed by a partner from whom they were separated (26% versus 11%).
• For both male and female spouses, homicide rates peaked among 15 to 24 year olds and declined with increasing age.
• Stabbings were the most common method used to commit spousal homicide, particularly against male victims.
Family-related homicides against children and youth
• Over the past 10 years, there were 326 homicides committed by a family member against a child or youth (0 to 17 years), accounting for 7% of all solved homicides and 21% of all family-related homicides.
• Parents committed the majority (84%) of family-related homicides against children and youth.
• Infants under the age of one experienced higher rates of family homicide compared to older children.
• Children under 4 years of age who were killed by a family member were most often shaken or beaten to death whereas older children were most often killed with a weapon, such as a knife or firearm.
Family-related homicides against seniors.
• There were 160 family-related homicides against seniors (65 years and older) between 2000 and 2009, accounting for 4% of all solved homicides and 10% of all family-related homicides.
• The rate of family-related homicides against seniors has gradually declined over the past 30 years. In 2009, the rate of family-related homicide against seniors was 61% lower than in 1980.
• Senior women were most likely to be killed by their spouse (41%) or son (36%), while the majority of senior men were killed by their son (72%).
• Frustration, anger and despair was the most common motivation for a family member killing a senior person, resulting in about one-third (33%) of all such homicides between 2000 and 2009. Another 26% of family-related homicides against seniors stemmed from an argument.