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Survey: spousal violence on decline in Canada; women still more likely to suffer

Findings capture conditions before COVID-19 pandemic sent many into isolation
A five-year Statistics Canada survey on victimization found rates of respondents self-reporting physical and/or sexual violence in their spousal or partner relationships came down between 1999 and 2019. (Pixabay)

About 711,000 Canadians – 60 per cent of them women – have experienced spousal violence, according to the recently released 2019 General Social Survey-Victimization (GSS), which collected the data over five years.

That total – representing 3.5 per cent of respondents with a current or former spouse or common-law partner – was “significantly lower” than the 7.5 per cent who self-reported physical or sexual violence in the 1999 survey.

But this trendline comes with a proviso: data collection ceased before the COVID-19 pandemic started. In other words, this public health information was not captured after many had began to live in isolation, some with their abuser.

As Statistics Canada reports, spousal violence can take on many forms and varies in severity.

“Of those who had experienced spousal violence in the past five years, more than six in 10 (64 per cent) victims had been pushed, grabbed or shoved by their spouse, while about half said their spouse threatened to hit them (53 per cent) or threw something that could have hurt them (46 per cent),” the GSS report reads.

“More than one in four (28 per cent) victims of spousal violence experienced the most serious type of spousal violence included in the GSS on Victimization: beating, choking, threatening to use or using a gun or knife, or sexual assault.”

RELATED: Women in vulnerable demographics most at risk of domestic homicide, study finds

According to the GSS, one-third (33 per cent) of spousal violence victims suffered physical injuries, with women more likely than men to sustain physical injury and experience negative emotional impacts.

Indigenous individuals were more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to experience spousal violence. It was also a more common experience for people with disabilities, but less so for individuals belonging to visible minority groups, the survey results stated.

Statistics Canada has been collecting self-reported data about spousal violence for more than two decades.

“During that time, there have been significant decreases in spousal violence and many changes to police practices in dealing with spousal violence, as well as numerous policies and programs to prevent and address different forms of intimate partner violence,” the report reads.

The report adds that data collected from self-reported experiences of spousal violence represent an important complement to police-reported data on the subject.

“Due to the complexities of intimate relationships, spousal violence is particularly susceptible to underreporting to police.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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