Fact sheet: Family violence
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Family violence is any form of abuse or neglect experienced by a child or adult from a family member, or from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship,Footnote 1 whether current or former. Family violence affects people in different family and relationship-based contexts, regardless of their age, geographic location, income level or education. It affects people of all races, religions, gender identities and sexual orientations.
Family violence can be a single act of violence or a series of acts that form a pattern/cycle of violence. Family violence has serious health, social, and financial impacts on those directly involved. These impacts can last a lifetime and span generations, leading to intergenerational trauma.Footnote 2 Family violence can also impact the extended family, friends, and coworkers of the people affected by it.
When violence is committed against someone based on their gender, gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender, it is a form of gender-based violence.
Family violence includes many forms of violence, including:
- physical abuse: intentional or threatened use of physical force against a family member or intimate partner
- neglect: not meeting the basic needs to provide care for a dependent family member or intimate partner
- sexual violence: sexual activity with a family member or intimate partner without their consent; any sexual activity with a child
- emotional (psychological) abuse: words or actions to control or frighten a family member or intimate partner, or to lower their self-respect and self-esteem
- financial abuse (also referred to as economic abuse): control, or misuse of a family member's or intimate partner's money, assets or propertyFootnote 3
There are also different types of family violence, including:
- intimate partner violence (IPV): violence or abuse within a marriage, common-law or dating relationship that happens at any time during a relationship, including while it is breaking down or after it has ended
- child maltreatment: emotional maltreatment, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and exposure to violence happening in the family
- violence against seniors: victimization of an older adult by a family member, or by a non-family member on whom the older adult is dependent
- harmful practices: underage or forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, and violence committed in the name of “honour”Footnote 3
The Criminal Code includes offences that prohibit many aspects of family violence such as assault, homicide, kidnapping, forcible confinement, human trafficking, sexual assault, child sexual offences, criminal harassment, failure to provide necessaries of life, criminal negligence, theft, fraud, extortion and forgery.Footnote 4
In Canada, most provinces and territories have adopted civil domestic/family violence laws that provide for either short-term emergency protection orders or long-term victim assistance orders. Other jurisdictions, such as Ontario and British Columbia, provide for protection or restraining orders in their family law legislation. These laws allow individuals to seek protection through the civil and family justice systems, in addition to any potential recourse they may have in the criminal justice system.
All provinces and territories have child protection laws that allow state intervention in cases when a child is in need of protection.Footnote 4
The Government of Canada is working to increase its knowledge about this form of violence. As is the case with many forms of violence, those who experience family violence may not report it to the police for a variety of reasons, including fear for personal safety and fear of stigma/shame.Footnote 5
Here are some key facts:
Family violence against children and youth
Canadian police-reported dataFootnote 6 (2019):
- 22,299 child and youthFootnote 7 were victims of family violence that year and girls accounted for six in ten of victims (60%).Footnote 8
- Consistent with previous years, rates of family violence against children and youth were significantly higher among girls than boys (379 versus 239 victims per 100,000 population).Footnote 8
- Among all child and youth victims of violent crimes, 34% of girls were victimized by a family member compared with 29% of boys. The majority of girls (19%) and boys (20%) who experienced family violence that year were victimized by a parent.Footnote 8
- Sexual offences were the most common form of family violence perpetrated against girls. As observed in previous years, rates of sexual offences were more than four times higher among girls than boys (170 versus 37 victims per 100,000 population).Footnote 8
- Rates of sexual offences, regardless of age groups, were higher among girls than among boys. However, rates varied within each population–rates of sexual offences among girls peaked among those aged 12 to 14 (275 victims per 100,000 population) while for boys they peaked among those aged 6 to 11 (50 victims). In comparison, rates of physical assaults peaked at ages 15 to 17 for girls (311 victims) and 12 to 14 for boys (218 victims).Footnote 8
- In the provinces, rates of family violence against child and youth were higher in rural areas than in urban areas. In rural areas, girls had a rate of family violence that was twice as high as girls living in urban areas (652 versus 325 victims per 100,000 population) and a similar situation was observed for boys (398 versus 208 victims).Footnote 8
Intimate partner violence
For detailed statistics on intimate partner violence, consult the fact sheet on intimate partner violence.
Family violence against seniors
Canadian police-reported data (2019):
- 4,518 seniors (aged 65 and older) experienced violence by a family member in Canada. Among them, 2,613 were women accounting for the majority of victims (58%). This translated into higher rates of family violence among senior women than senior men (79 victims versus 65 per 100,000 population).Footnote 9
- When compared with senior men, senior women are considerably more likely to be victimized by a family member. Among all senior victims of violent crimes, 41% of senior women were victimized by a family member compared with 25% of senior men.Footnote 9
- Rates of family violence against seniors in the provinces were higher in rural areas than urban areas for both senior women (107 versus 70 victims per 100,000 population) and men (89 versus 58 victims).Footnote 9
- Between 2008 and 2018, a total of 198 seniors were killed by a family member, women accounting for 62% (123 victims) of all senior victims of family-related homicide (Canadian police-reported data – 2018).Footnote 10
You may access the following list of additional support services for people affected by GBV.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Stop Family Violence website is a one-stop source of information on family violence and has resources and information for anyone experiencing family violence.
- Justice Canada’s Victim Services Directory helps service providers, victims and individuals locate services for victims of crime across Canada.
- Justice Canada’s Family Violence webpage has additional information and resources on the various forms of family violence and information on the criminal aspects of family violence.
This fact sheet was developed in collaboration with other federal government departments.
Publication date: fall 2020. Updated statistics in fall 2021
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