This fact sheet highlights some of the publicly available research on the prevalence and nature of sexual offending against children and youth in Canada.
The exact prevalence of sexual offences against children in Canada is unknown. The reasons for this are many, including that sexual offences are among the most underreported crimes in Canada, with an estimated 88% of sexual assaults not reported to police in 2009.1
The majority of information on sexual offending against children and youth in Canada is based on police-reported incidents. Additional information is also found through child welfare data.
Police-reported incidents of sexual offending against children indicate the following:
- The majority of child and youth victims know the offender. In 2011, 89% of child and youth victims of sexual assault were victimized by somebody other than a stranger.6
- In 2009, family members, including parents, siblings and other family members, were the perpetrators of sexual offending against children in 35% of cases.7
- The proportion of children and youth who are sexually assaulted by a family member generally decreases as children become older. In 2011, 56% of child victims of sexual assault 11 years old or younger were victimized by a family member. In comparison, 26% of youth victims of sexual assault ages 12 to 17 were victimized by a family member.8
Police-reported incidents of sexual offending against male and female children indicate the following:
- Both male and female children and youth are victims of sexual offending; however, the majority of victims are female.
- The number of female victims of sexual assault generally increases as female youth become older. In 2011, the number of female victims of sexual assault began to notably increase at age 12, peaked at age 15, then began to decline. The number of male victims remains relatively stable throughout childhood and youth.9
- Girls are more likely than boys to experience sexual offending by a family member. In 2009, female children and youth were the victims of 79% of all sexual offending committed by a family member.10
- 1Perreault, S., and S. Brennan. 2010. Criminal Victimization in Canada, 2009. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. Last accessed January 30, 2013, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2010002/article/11340-eng.htm#a18
- 2"Sexual offending" is an umbrella term to include all offences of a sexual nature, that is sexual assault and other sexual offences such as sexual interference, sexual exploitation, invitation to sexual touching, luring a child via a computer, incest, voyeurism, corrupting children, anal intercourse, and bestiality, and unknown other sexual offences. -Statistics Canada. 2011. Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. Last accessed January 30, 2013 from:http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-224-x/85-224-x2010000-eng.pdf These points are based on full-year data submitted by police services representing 99% of the population of Canada.
- 3Sexual assault includes only the three levels of sexual assault as defined in the Criminal Code and does not include other sexual offences. -Data obtained through a special request to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, October 2012; based on data submitted by police services representing 99% of the population of Canada.
- 4Brennan, S. 2012. Police-Reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2011. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. Last accessed January 30, 2013 from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11692-eng.pdf
- 5Data obtained through a special request to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, August 2012.
- 6Ibid., 4.
- 7Ibid., 3.
- 8Ibid., 4.
- 99Ibid., 4.
- 10Ibid., 3.
Department of Justice Canada