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About gender-based violence

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What is gender-based violence?

What is the difference between sex and gender?

Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define males, females and intersex persons.

Gender refers to the roles and behaviours that society associates with being female or male. Rigid gender norms can result in stereotyping and curb our expectations of both women and men. A society’s understanding of gender changes over time and varies from culture to culture.

Everyone has the right to live free from violence. However, many Canadians across the country continue to face violence every day because of their gender, gender expression, gender identity or perceived gender. This is referred to as gender-based violence (GBV), and is a violation of human rights.

If you look closely, you will see the roots of GBV all around you, in the jokes that demean LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit) people, in media messages that objectify women, and in the rigid gender norms imposed on young children.

While violence affects all people, some people are more at risk of experiencing violence because of various forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism. Certain populations experience high levels of violence, including women; young women and girls; Indigenous women and girls; LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit) and gender diverse individuals; women living in Northern, rural, and remote communities; and women living with disabilities. The intersection of any two or more risk factors may increase a person’s risk and vulnerability to violence. In other words, anyone living with more than one of these factors may be even at a higher risk of GBV.

The negative effects of GBV reach far beyond the individuals who directly experience them. Violence can have long-lasting and negative health, social and economic effects that span generations, which can lead to cycles of violence and abuse within families and sometimes whole communities. GBV holds us all back.

GBV is not limited to physical violence and can include any word, action, or attempt to degrade, control, humiliate, intimidate, coerce, deprive, threaten, or harm another person. GBV can take many forms including cyber, physical, sexual, societal, psychological, emotional, and economic. Neglect, discrimination, and harassment can also be forms of GBV.

Key statistics on gender-based violence in Canada

Key statistics on gender-based violence in Canada: by populations

Indigenous women
  • Indigenous women are more likely to be affected by all types of violent victimization.Footnote 4 According to the 2014 General Social Survey on VictimizationFootnote 7, Indigenous women reported having experienced a violent crime at a rate 2.7 times higher than that reported by non-Indigenous women (219 versus 81 incidents per 1,000 population).Footnote 8
  • In 2018, police-reported data showed that the homicide rate for Indigenous women and girls was nearly seven times higher than amongst non-Indigenous women and girls (4.54 versus 0.67 incidents per 100,000 population respectively).Footnote 9
  • Indigenous women are also more likely to have been sexually assaulted. In 2014, the self-reported sexual assault rate of Indigenous females was more than three times higher than that of non-Indigenous females (115 versus 35 incidents per 1,000 population).Footnote 3
Women living with disabilities
  • Women living with disabilities in Canada are at a higher risk of violent victimizationFootnote 5. According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, women with a disability were twice as likely as women who did not have a disability to have experienced a violent crime.Footnote 5
  • Results from the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization show that the rate of violent victimization among women with a cognitive disability or mental health-related disability was approximately four times higher than among women who did not have a disability.Footnote 5
  • According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, women with a disability were nearly twice as likely as women without a disability to have been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months.Footnote 5
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual Canadians are more likely to experience violent victimization.Footnote 4 According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, lesbian, gay or bisexual Canadians are twice as likely to experience violent victimization as heterosexual Canadians when all other risk factors are taken into account.Footnote 4
  • According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, bisexual women were four times more likely to report experiencing violent victimization (327 versus 75 incidents per 1,000 population) and seven times more likely to report experiencing sexual assault (208 versus 29 per 1,000 population) than heterosexual women.Footnote 4
  • While national data is not yet available on the rates of violence experienced by transgender and other gender-diverse people in Canada, there is evidence that these populations experience high levels of violent victimization in Canada.Footnote 10, Footnote 11, Footnote 12
Women living in remote and rural areas
  • In 2017, of women and men of all ages groups, young women aged 18 to 24 living in the North had the highest rate of police-reported violent incidents in Canada.Footnote 13
  • In 2018, women living in rural areas experienced the highest overall rates of police-reported intimate partner violence in Canada with rates that were significantly higher than women living in urban areas (789 versus 447 incidents per 100,000 population).Footnote 14
  • According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, women living in the territories were at about 45% higher risk of violent victimization than men living also in the territories when controlling for other risk factors.Footnote 15
Girls and young women
  • Girls and young women in Canada are at a higher risk of experiencing a violent crime. In 2017, the rate of police-reported violent crimes in Canada was higher for girls and young women aged 24 and younger than their male counterparts (1,394 versus 1,030 incidents per 100,000 population).Footnote 2 Violence against females peaked overall at age 15, with a rate of 2,684 victims per 100,000 population.Footnote 2
  • Girls and young women in Canada are also more likely to experience sexual offences. In 2017, the rates for police-reported sexual offences were much higher among girls and young women than boys and young men (407 versus 58 incidents per 100,000 population).Footnote 2
  • Police-reported data show that female children and youth in Canada were more likely to experience family violence in 2018 when compared to their male children and youth (327 versus 207 incidents per 100,000 population). Of the 18,965 child and youth (17 years and younger) victims of family violence in Canada for that year, 60% were female.Footnote 16
Senior women
  • While police-reported data show that senior women are less likely to experience violent victimization than their younger counterpartsFootnote 2, they face unique challenges which can limit their ability to access the justice system and related services. Family violence against seniors can have especially serious consequences for victims. Abuse is most often etected by those who interact with seniors and are familiar with their typical behaviour. Therefore, family violence against seniors may go unnoticed by members of the public or the police. Further, as seniors continue to age, their isolation can increase over time increasing the likelihood that violence perpetrated against them will remain undetected.
  • In 2018, police-reported data indicated that women accounted for 58% of seniors who experienced family violence, and those senior women were most often victimized by a spouse (32%).Footnote 14
  • Between 2006 and 2016, six in ten (62%) senior victims of family‑related homicide were women. Among female victims, a spouse was most often the perpetrator (50%) compared to 8% of male victims, while among male victims, their child was most often the perpetrator (63%) compared to 33% of female victims.Footnote 17

Chronology

Access a clickable chronology with links on federal and international strategies, policies and milestones that have contributed to preventing and addressing gender-based violence (GBV).

Glossary

Consult the glossary to obtain definitions of terms and concepts related to gender-based violence.

Fact sheets

These fact sheets present key statistics and information.

Intimate partner violence

Family violence

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