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We have come a long way in the past decade in acknowledging the severity of different kinds of domestic violence and abuse, yet the problem stubbornly persists. If you don’t look for it, you won’t see it. It happens in every town and city, in every neighbourhood, in every country in the world. No extended family, no ethnic or religious group, is immune. If you have children, they are playing with abused or bullied children at school. If you have colleagues at work, some will be quietly struggling with the impact of abusive relationships as they try to earn their living. The consequences—the hurt, anger, fear, violence, injuries, and exhaustion—affect all of us, over generations. We need to stand beside the strangers in our community—not only our family members, friends, and neighbours—as they search for a peaceful way of life. Strangers need allies, too (Reimer 2005, 223).
All women have the right to live in safe communities, free of violence and the threat of violence. This is part of the vision of the Federal/Provincial/Territorial (F/P/T) Status of Women Ministers, who share the ideal that violence against anyone is unacceptable whether it is directed against children, women, men, seniors, people with disabilities, visible minorities or anyone else.
In December 2002, the F/P/T Status of Women Ministers released Assessing Violence Against Women: A Statistical Profile. The F/P/T ministers had commissioned Statistics Canada to design indicators, based on statistical data, that showed the severity and extent of violence against women in Canada. Assessing Violence Against Women provided those indicators. Where possible, the report showed trends over time, and gave statistics at the national, provincial and territorial levels.
This report, Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006, takes a substantial step forward. A joint release by the F/P/T Status of Women Ministers and Statistics Canada, it adds a third time point to the indicators, and new data in the areas of criminal harassment (also known as stalking), sentencing of spousal violence perpetrators, victims’ use of services, Aboriginal women and residents of the territories. As with the 2002 report, it gives trends over time. The indicators are shown at the national, provincial and territorial levels whenever possible.
More data are still needed. This was one of the strongest conclusions of Assessing Violence Against Women and it is repeated here. Significant data gaps still exist and there is much we don’t know. For example, the experiences of Aboriginal women, older women, immigrant and visible minority women, and women in same-sex relationships regarding intimate partner violence and sexual assault are often hidden.
How violence affects victims also depends on other aspects of their lives, such as their age, ethnicity, background, level of ability and sexual orientation, to name only a few. These multiple dimensions are weaved into all life experiences. For an individual woman, the impact of violence can depend on many physical, social, and economic factors. For example, can she afford safe housing if she flees a violent situation? And will she have to leave behind her cultural community to escape the abuse?
Good research and analysis can reveal the hidden patterns in violence. Filling in the gaps, and examining the fabric of women’s experiences—how violence impacts and interacts with other aspects of their lives—will reveal a more complete portrait. This can allow decision-makers and service providers to plan for the future, and hopefully to adjust current policies and services as needed.
We hope a wide audience will find this report useful. As with the first report, Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006 is intended for governments, non-governmental organizations, academics, researchers and decision-makers. Beyond that scope, we hope it is interesting and useful to anyone whose aim is to address, prevent and respond to violence – to help themselves, their friends, their sisters, their neighbours, and the stranger down the street.
Federal/Provincial/Territorial Senior Officials