Part 2 of 2: The Status of Gender-Based Violence in Canada

Essay, Culture Wars, Anil Anand

Gender-based violence crosses social and economic development, cultures, nationalities, and sexual orientation. Despite concerted efforts by governmental and non-governmental organizations around the world, there are too many victims who continue to suffer from gender-based violence.

Although gender-based violence has generally been perceived as a crime perpetrated by male aggressors against their female partners, the reality is quite different. In fact, the number of men who experience abuse is also significant, and as with violence against women, extracts a toll on the quality of lives of large numbers of victims and families across the globe.  

A recent article by Global News asked the question “More men are killed than women, so why focus on violence against women?”1  

The answer is simple: violence against anyone in a just society should be a concern, and all victims should be treated with the same concern.

As the director of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability observed: “although violence against women is unique and entrenched in our society wherein social structures perpetuate and maintain gender inequalities, dealing with violence against the genders is not a competition, but one of prevention.”

Gender-based violence against men has received comparatively little attention, and when attention is directed at intimate partner violence against men, there can be an attitude of reticence.

As recently as February 7, 2019 when the parliamentary secretary for gender equity for British Columbia was asked about the lack of funding for men’s shelters fleeing domestic violence the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing responded by stating: “The province does not fund shelters for men with their children or transition houses for men because there has not been a demonstrated need for this particular service,” and “Although there are occasional cases of a man fleeing domestic violence, statistics and data support that women are far more likely to be abused and in need of resources.” 

Despite the claim of no “demonstrated need”, about 22% (11 of 73) British Columbians killed as a result of domestic violence between 2010-2015 were men.2   

Based on the 2014 Canadian General Social Survey on Victimization 2.9% of men and 1.7% of women reported experiencing physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their current relationships in the last 5 years. In addition, 35% of male and 34% of female victims of intimate partner violence experienced high controlling behaviours—the most severe type of abuse known as intimate terrorism. Furthermore, 22% of male victims and 19% of female victims of intimate partner violence were found to have experienced severe physical violence along with high controlling behaviours.3

The Canadian Centre for Men and Families reports that over 400 men reached out to the agency in 2017 alone.4   

In fact, the number of reports of domestic violence against men is likely underreported and only partly representative of reality. Men are not likely to report domestic violence by their female partners due to shame, machismo, fear of humiliation by police and male peers, and even fear of retaliation by their perpetrators, but data from across the globe is shedding light on the scope of the abuse.

In Canada, data on domestic abuse of men was first collected as part of the 1999 General Social Survey (GSS). Surprisingly, results of that survey indicated that almost equal proportions of men and women (7% and 8% respectively) had been the victims of intimate partner physical and psychological abuse (18% and 19% respectively).5 

According to Statistics Canada’s report on Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2018 there were over 99,000 victims of intimate partner violence aged 15 to 89 in Canada in 2018, representing about one-third (30%) of all victims of police-reported violent crime. Almost four-fifths of victims of intimate partner violence were women (79%).6 A fifth represent 19,800 male victims – a significant number.

These numbers are reflected by other studies. A review of 411 domestic homicide victim between 2002 and 2016 the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario found that there were an average of 27.4 domestic homicide victim deaths per year from 2002-2016; of which 331 (81%) were adult females, 38 (9%) were children and 42 (10%) were adult males.7

Of the 22 cases involving 25 homicide victims in 2017, the Office of the Chief Coroner for the Province of Ontario found that 20 (80%) were adult females, four (16%) were adult males and one (4%) was a female child. Of the 22 cases reviewed, 21 (95%) involved male perpetrators and one (5%) involved a female perpetrator.8 

These issues and concerns are not unique to Canada.  

A recent UK government survey indicated that 9% or 1.4 million men had experienced some form of partner abuse, includes stalking, physical violence and sexual assault. In fact, as far back as 2001, the British Crime Survey found that 4% of women and 2% of men reported being victims of nonsexual domestic threats or force in the 12 months prior to interview, while 21% of women and 10% of men reported experiencing intimate partner violence in their lifetime.9  

In Germany, according to a 2018 report based on findings collected for 2017, 17.9%, or 127,236 of victims of intimate-partner violence were men; cases of assault, rape, attempted murder and deprivation of liberty. As a consequence, the states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia have launched the first initiatives in Germany to help male victims of domestic violence and to break the taboos surrounding the topic.10

In Canada, the rate of police-reported intimate partner violence increased by 2% from 2017 to 2018, reaching its highest level since 2012. During that time, rates of intimate partner violence among women increased by 3%. The good news is that rates of intimate partner violence among men decreased (-1%).11 

Policy, research, and practice continue to be hindered by the perception that the issue of domestic violence against men is marginal and insignificant. There remains much work ahead for agencies from across the sector to promote broad public awareness and implement policies for responding to all forms of gender-based violence. 

It is important for all victims of abuse, whether men or women, to know that they are not alone, that their experience is not unique to their personal situation, and that there are resources and support systems to help them respond to their situation. There needs to be a resetting of social norms so that the perpetrators of intimate partner abuse, whether men or women, recognize that violence in any form is both legally and morally wrong.

Justin Trottier, Executive Director of Canadian Association for Equality cautions that male victimization is an under-explored phenomenon and Canada must invest in research, specifically on the unique experiences of male victims. Support needs for male intimate partner violence are the same as those for women: 

  • Challenging existing gendered stereotypes;
  • Establishment of shelters dedicated to men; 
  • Involving the community in a multidisciplinary approach to providing intervention and prevention services to all families in need;
  • Providing access to self-help groups and other supportive services for perpetrators, victims, and survivors of abuse;
  • Increasing awareness and education for key stakeholders including the police, health-care providers, and the judiciary; and  
  • Designing intervention programs for female domestic aggressors.

At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that women continue to bear the largest segment of intimate partner violence and their challenges remain enormous around the globe.

In Russia, there are no laws defining domestic violence because traditionalists argue that doing so would harm “traditional family values”. 

In France marital violence affects 220,000 women each year and on and results in the death of a woman every three days at the hands of a partner; a state of affairs President Emmanuel Macron has called “France’s shame”.12 

Dealing with gender-based violence is not a competition but one of prevention and prevention. Prevention and early resolution of abuse is critical for current victimization and harm, but also for breaking cycles of repeated intergenerational violence.

Research confirms that traumatic experiences of child abuse and neglect can have a life-long impact on the development of the individual survivor. Early childhood, complex trauma has been associated with disruptions in attachment processes and neurological development.13 

Individuals with a maltreated parent, on average, exhibit poorer adult functioning outcomes and more trauma symptoms. And most importantly, a legacy of childhood maltreatment in the parent presents intergenerational risks for the next generation.14 

The roots of violence and attitudes around healthy relationships are often formed during adolescence. Shaping positive attitudes that counteract social ‘norms’ that tolerate violence requires positive familial modelling and socialization.15

Abuse of either sex is simply not acceptable, and standing up, speaking out, and protecting the vulnerable must be a global imperative. Preventing intimate partner violence is a prerequisite for a healthy Canada.

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Endnotes:

 

  1. Gerster, Jane. Global News, “More men are killed than women, so why focus on violence against women?” https://globalnews.ca/news/6536184/gender-based-violence-men-women/ Accessed: February 29, 2020 Posted February 22, 2020.
  2. Report to the Chief Coroner of British Columbia. “BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel A Review of Intimate Partner Violence Deaths 2010-2015” November, 2016, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/death-review-panel/intimate-partner-violence2010-2015.pdf Accessed: March 7, 2020.
  3. Lysova, Alexandra, Emeka Dim, and Donald Dutton. “Prevalence and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence in Canada as Measured by the National Victimization Survey.” (2019).
  4. Canadian Centre for Men and Families. “Family Shelter for Abused Men and Children” https://menandfamilies.org/family-shelter-for-abused-men-and-children/ Accessed: March 7, 2020.
  5. Lupri, Eugen  and Elaine Grandin. “Intimate Partner Abuse against Men was prepared by for the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence”, Family Violence Prevention Unit Public Health Agency of Canada, November 6, 2009 https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/stop-family-violence/publications/intimate-partner-abuse-against-men.html Accessed: March 4, 2020.
  6. Statistics Canada. “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2018”, December 12, 2019. 

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/191212/dq191212b-eng.htm Accessed: March 1, 2020.

  1. Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General. “Domestic Violence Death Review Committee 2017 Annual Report”, Office of the Chief Coroner, December 2018, https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/Deathinvestigations/OfficeChiefCoroner/Publicationsandreports/DVDRC2017.htmlAccessed: March 7, 2020.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Lysova, Alexandra, Emeka Dim, and Donald Dutton. “Prevalence and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence in Canada as Measured by the National Victimization Survey.” (2019).
  4. Janjevic, Darko.  “Domestic violence against men – German states move to break taboos”, Deutsche Welle (DW) June 18, 2019, https://www.dw.com/en/domestic-violence-against-men-german-states-move-to-break-taboos/a-49252236 Accessed: March 4, 2020.
  5. Statistics Canada. “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2018”, December 12, 2019. 

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/191212/dq191212b-eng.htm Accessed: March 1, 2020.

  1. Slawson, Nicola. “France’s shame’: thousands protest against gender violence”, The Guardian, November 23, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/23/frances-shame-thousands-protest-gender-violence Accessed: March 9, 2020.
  2. Leeman, Joanna Marta Menger. “Living our parents’ trauma: Effects of child abuse and neglect on the next generation.”
  3. Ibid.
  4. 15. Government of Canada, “A year in review 2018-2019, Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence” Status of Women Canada, https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/violence/strategy-strategie/report-rapport2019-en.html Accessed: https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/violence/strategy-strategie/report-rapport2019-en.html.

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Anil Anand is a Research Associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Anil served as a police officer for 29 years; during his career some of his assignments included divisional officer, undercover narcotics officer, and intelligence officer. He has worked in Professional Standards, Business Intelligence, Corporate Communications, the Ipperwash Inquiry (judicial public inquiry), and Interpol.