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It is difficult to obtain a complete and accurate picture of abuse in Canada – how common is it, how often does it happen and where? Most often, abuse takes place in secret. Persons suffering abuse, be they spouses, children or seniors, may be reluctant or afraid to speak up and report what is happening or has happened to them. Some people will never disclose what they have suffered, or will wait many, many years to do so.

Yet a partial picture can be obtained from data from police reports and child welfare authorities. In 1999, children and youth under 18 years of age made up 23 percent of the Canadian population and were the victims in 24 percent of assaults reported to police. They were the victims of 60 percent of all sexual assaults and 20 percent of all physical assaults. [16] The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child abuse and neglect (CIS) estimates that there were 135,573 child maltreatment investigations in Canada in 1998 – nearly 22 investigations for every 1000 children. Statistics Canada reports that between 1995 and 2001, 84 percent of children in shelters were there to escape abuse in the home. The CIS also discovered a rate of 0.86 cases of sexual abuse per 1000 children, 3.66 cases of neglect per 1000 children and 2.2 cases of emotional abuse per 1000 children. [17]

A statistical profile on family violence released by Statistics Canada in 2000 revealed that fathers are more likely to abuse children no matter the age of the child or the type of abuse. Girls constitute 80 percent of child and youth sexual assault victims and 53 percent of physical assault victims in cases where the abuser was a family member, whereas boys make up 74 percent of children and youth who are physically assaulted by strangers or people outside of the family. [18]

Spousal violence occurs in significant numbers in Canada. In the five years leading up to 1999, eight percent of women and seven percent of men in common-law and married relationships had their partners commit violent acts towards them.  The risk of spousal assault is greater for younger men and women and for those couples living in a common-law relationship as compared to those in a married relationship. Over the same period, 20 per cent of Aboriginals reported experiencing spousal abuse. [19][20]

The 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS) discovered that men and women experience comparable rates of violence and emotional abuse; however, there is a clear distinction in the degree suffered by women. Men and women also tend to report different types of abuse - where women more often report being sexually assaulted and physically beaten and choked, men most often report offences such as being slapped or bitten. [21] The GSS also found children in approximately half a million households had either heard or witnessed a parent being assaulted during the five years prior to the survey. According to Statistics Canada, from 1995 to 2001, 73 percent of women in shelters were there to escape spousal abuse. [22] Women are also at higher risk of being killed by their husbands or partners, and the rate of spousal homicide is much higher for Aboriginal women and men. [23]


[16] Valerie Pottie Bunge and Daisy Locke (ed.), Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2000, p. 31.
[17] Nico Trocme et al., Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, 2001 (Ottawa, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada): 1:9-10
[18] Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2000 (Ottawa: Minister of Industry, 2000), 30.
[19] Statistics Canada: The Daily, Family Violence (2000) http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/000725/d000725b.htm

[20] Statistics Canada: The Daily, Family Violence: focus on child abuse and children at risk (2001) http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/010628/d010628b.htm  [2005-05-26].
[21] Canadian Resource Centre, Spousal Abuse (2002) http://www.crcvc.ca/docs/spousalabuse.pdf
[22] Statistics Canada: The Daily, Family Violence (2003) http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/030623/d030623c.htm
[23] Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile (Ottawa: Statistics Canada; Cat. No. 85-224-SPE, 2001)


Issue: Abuse

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