Violence Against Women in Canada

Researched and written by Holly Johnson and Emily Colpitts With assistance from Melanie Large, Colette Parent, Ann Denis, Sarah Baker, Lina Singh, Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, Lois Edge, Selma Kouidri, Abby Lippman, Marilyn Porter, and Deborah Stienstra
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Widespread gendered violence perpetrated against women is a flagrant abuse of women’s human rights. According to the ‘draft agreed conclusions’ of the 57th session of the Commission of the Status of Women (2013) at the United Nations, violence against women and girls is

...rooted in historical and structural inequality in power relations between women and men, and persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of the enjoyment of human rights …and fundamental freedoms. [It occurs]…in public and private spheres is…linked with gender stereotypes…and other factors that can increase women’s…vulnerability…


Despite decades of research and grassroots lobbying, violence against women remains one of the most persistent manifestations of misogyny and gender discrimination. Globally, including in Canada, women of all sectors of society are subjected to a vast array of physical, sexual, and psychological acts of violence by intimate partners, as well as stalking, rape and other sexual violence, sexual harassment, trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution, female genital cutting, and femicide.  This Fact Sheet focuses on information about violence against women in Canada. It draws on academic research, together with community and government reports, but, due to the extensive literature available, is by no means exhaustive.

The dimensions of this violence are just beginning to be understood as new forms are recognised. A ground-breaking Statistics Canada survey in 1993  (which has unfortunately not been repeated) estimated that 51% of Canadian women experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical assault since the age of 16. This figure masks important details showing that women experience multiple acts of male violence: 39% reported sexual assault, 29% physical and sexual violence by a marital partner, 16% by a dating partner, 23% by a friend or acquaintance, and 23% by a stranger. One-quarter of women who were physically assaulted by a spouse were also sexually assaulted. Eighty-seven percent of women had been sexually harassed and 80% of women aged 16-24 were sexually harassed in one year.

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