Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2011: highlights

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Section 1
Overview of family violence

  • In 2011, police reported nearly 95,000 victims of family violence, representing a rate of 279 victims for every 100,000 individuals in the population.
  • Most often, victims of family violence were in a spousal relationship with the accused, with about half of victims (49%) being currently or previously married to the accused. Another 18% of family violence victims were victimized by their parent, 13% by an extended family member, 11% by a sibling and 9% by a child, most often a grown child.
  • Victims of family violence were predominantly female (69%). This disproportionate representation was most pronounced for spousal violence, as 80% of victims were female, but was also evident when the accused was a child (63%), extended family member (58%), parent (57%) and sibling (57%).
  • Provincially, the highest rates of family violence were recorded in Saskatchewan (583 per 100,000 population) and Manitoba (402), while the lowest rates were recorded in Ontario (190), Prince Edward Island (227), Nova Scotia (246) and British Columbia (271).

Section 2
Family-related murder-suicides

  • There were 344 murder-suicides in Canada between 2001 and 2011, of which more than three-quarters (77%) involved at least one victim that was related to the accused.
  • Over the past 50 years, five-year average rates of family-related murder-suicide incidents have ranged between 0.6 and 1.2 incidents per million population. Despite annual fluctuations, the rate of family-related murder-suicides has generally been declining since peaking in the mid-1980s.
  • Spouses accounted for the largest proportion of family-related murder-suicides committed between 2001 and 2011. Women and those aged 15 to 24 were at highest risk of being victims of spousal murder-suicide. In incidents of spousal murder-suicides, 97% of the accused were male.
  • Shooting was the most common cause of death in spousal murder-suicides, with more than half (53%) of victims dying as a result of being shot. This was followed by stabbing at 22%.
  • Between 2001 and 2011, there were 52 incidents of family-related murder-suicides involving children and youth. The rate of family-related murder-suicides against children and youth peaked in the late 1980s and has generally declined since.
  • Parents and step-parents accounted for the majority (95%) of those accused of murder-suicides of children and youth, with other family members such as aunts and uncles accounting for the remaining 5%.
  • Between 2001 and 2011, there were 47 family-related murder-suicides involving at least one senior victim. Unlike trends in family-related murder-suicides overall, the rate of murder-suicides against seniors have been increasing since the early 1990s.

Section 3
Intimate partner violence

  • In 2011, there were approximately 97,500 victims of intimate partner violence, representing a rate of 341 victims per 100,000 population. The vast majority of these victims (80%) were women, a finding consistent over time.
  • Overall, violence against dating partners was more prevalent than spousal violence, with a rate that was at least 1.6 times greater than spousal violence.
  • As with violent crime overall, young Canadians were most often the victim of intimate partner violence. Women and men in their late 20s and early 30s had the highest rates of intimate partner violent victimization, followed closely by those aged 15 to 24 years. Rates generally declined with increasing age and were highest for women in every age group.
  • Risk of spousal homicide, while relatively low, was elevated after separation from a legal marriage and among those in a common-law union.
  • The majority of victims of intimate partner violence were physically assaulted in some way, though assaults were more common in incidents of spousal violence against a current partner than those against a previous one.
  • The most frequently occurring type of offence against intimate partners – common assault - has decreased in recent years. Between 2009 and 2011, the rate of common assault fell by 4%.

Section 4
Family violence against children and youth

  • In 2011, police reported approximately 18,300 child victims of family violence, representing a rate of 267 child victims for every 100,000 Canadians under the age of 18.
  • While young children have the lowest rates of police-reported family violence against children, these children were most at risk of being killed by a family member. Over a ten-year period, infants under the age of one were most at risk of being killed by a family member, followed by toddlers and preschoolers aged 1 to 3.
  • Girls are disproportionally represented as victims of family violence. In 2011, rates of family violence were 56% higher for girls than boys. Girls consistently experienced higher rates of family violence for nearly every type of violent offence. However, this risk was most marked for police-reported sexually-based offences.
  • Rates of family-perpetrated physical assaults against children and youth have been relatively stable from 2009 to 2011, while rates of sexual assault have dropped over this same period.

Section 5
Family violence against seniors

  • At a rate of 61 victims of family violence per 100,000 population, seniors aged 65 and older had the lowest rates of family-violence. This was seen for both men and women, though rates for senior women were higher than those for senior men (67 versus 53 per 100,000 population).
  • Most often, grown children were responsible for family violence against seniors, followed by spouses.
  • Common assault, in which little or no physical injury is caused to the victim, was the most common form of family violence against seniors. In total, common assaults accounted for over one-half (52%) of family violence incidents, followed by uttering threats (20%) and serious assaults (12%).
  • The rate of physical and sexual assaults against seniors has remained stable over the past three years.
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