Breaking the Links between poverty and violence against women: A resource guide – Fact sheets

Fact Sheets

This section of the Resource Guide provides statistical information and other facts about poverty and violence in women's lives in Canada. The fact sheets can be copied and handed out or made into overhead transparencies or computer-aided presentations.

The fact sheets also highlight how poverty and violence affect particular groups of women. It is important to remember that a woman can belong to more than one group; she can experience the world as an immigrant and visible minority woman, or as an Aboriginal woman living in a remote community.

Violence in Women's Lives

  • Violence against women exists in all communities and cuts across all cultural, racial and religious groups and income levels.
  • In 2004, 7% of women reported being physically or sexually assaulted by a spouse, down from 8% in 1999, and 12% in 1993. Canada, Statistics Canada (2006a), pp.16-17
  • The spousal homicide rate has declined by 57% since 1975 for women. The rate of spousal homicides against women is 3 to 5 times higher than the rate of spousal homicide against men. Canada, Statistics Canada (2007a), p.10
  • In 2004, 44% of female victims of spousal abuse suffered injury, 13% sought medical attention, 34% feared for their lives and 29% took time off from their everyday activities because of violence. Canada, Statistics Canada (2005), pp.16-17
  • In 2004, more than 10% of women reported being stalked in the past five years in a way that caused them to fear for their lives or the safety of someone known to them. Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.164
  • Eighty percent of all federally sentenced women report having been physically and/or sexually abused. This percentage rises to 90% for Aboriginal women. Canada Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (2008), p.3
  • In 2004, twice as many women than men were beaten by their partners, and four times as many were choked. Moreover, 16% of women who were victimized by a spouse were sexually assaulted, and twice as many female as male victims of spousal assault reported chronic, ongoing assaults (10 or more). Canada, Statistics Canada (2006a), p.19
  • For females, police-reported rates of spousal violence were highest for those aged 25 to 34 (678 per 100,000 females). Rates were much lower for the older age groups. Canada, Statistics Canada (2004b), p.6

Women's Experience of Violence in Diverse Groups

Aboriginal Women

Aboriginal women are more than three times more likely to be victims of spousal violence than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. In 2004, 24% of Aboriginal women reported violence from a current or previous partner in the five-year period up to 2004, compared with 7% for non-Aboriginal women.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2004b), pp.16-17

In the five-year period up to 2004, over half (54%) of Aboriginal women who were victims of spousal violence reported experiencing severe and potentially life threatening violence, including being beaten or choked; threatened with, or had a gun or knife used against them; or had been sexually assaulted, as compared to with 37% of non-Aboriginal female victims of spousal abuse.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.195

Eighty four percent of homeless Aboriginal girls in Vancouver have experienced sexual abuse.

National Working Group on Women an Housing (2007), p.2

Young Women

In 2002, children and youth accounted for 61% of sexual assault cases (compared to 20% of victims of physical assault). Girls represented 81% of those cases.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2004b), pp.16-17

In 2005, the rate of sexual assault against children and youth was over five times higher than for adults.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2007), p.20

Violence against girls and young women plays a significant role in the dynamics of their homelessness. While most homeless youth have histories of family instability, conflict and abuse, more young women than young men have experienced sexual and physical abuse within their families. Young women who have been abused, especially sexually abused, are more vulnerable to re-victimization.

Canada, Housing and Renewal Association (2002), p.vii

In 2005, girls under the age of 18 experienced rates of sexual assault that were almost four times higher than their male counterparts.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2007a), p.21

Senior Women

In 1999, approximately 7% of seniors reported experiencing emotional or financial abuse in the past five years, with the vast majority committed by spouses.

Canada, Justice Canada (2006)

Almost 65% of all older adult victims of family violence reported to a sample of police agencies in 2000 were women.

Canada, Justice Canada (2006)

Between 1974 and 2000, older women were at higher risk of spousal homicide than older men. More than half (52%) of the older women who were victims of family homicide were killed by their spouses.

Canada, Justice Canada (2006)


In the 2004 General Social Survey, the overall proportion of those who reported experiencing spousal violence and who indicated that they were gay or lesbian was low, however the rate of spousal violence reported between same-sex couples was twice the rate of violence between heterosexual couples (15% versus 7%).

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006c), p.19

Two and a half percent of police-reported incidents of spousal violence occurred between same-sex couples. The proportion of these incidents in which the couples were gay males is 2.5 times that of lesbian couples (72% versus 28%).

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006c), p.19

Rural and Isolated Women

Women who live in the country and have been abused have a much harder time accessing services than those in towns and cities.

MacQuarrie (2004), p.xii

Even in rural areas that have local health and social service providers, many are ill equipped to address their clients' family violence law information needs.

Hornosty & Doherty (2002), p.20

In rural communities, women are often blamed for triggering abuse while the community tends to minimize and normalize abusive behaviours.

Hornosty & Doherty (2002), p.12

Women with Disabilities

It is estimated that 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually abused in their lifetime; of girls with intellectual disabilities, it is estimated that 40% to 70% will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

Canada, Stop Family Violence (2004), p.2

Immigrant and Visible Minority Women

Immigrant, refugee and women of colour are at high risk of violence because of the multiple and overlapping impact of sexism, racism, and socioeconomic factors.

Meyer & Estable (2000), p.9

Stereotypes about immigrant and visible minority women often crystallize when discussing violence. These include the mistaken beliefs that immigrant and visible minority women are more accepting of abuse.

Meyer & Estable (2000), p.28

Only one in 10 immigrant and visible minority women who had experienced partner abuse had reported the abuse to police. A higher proportion had sought help from someone other than the police such as a friend (21%), co-worker (9%), doctor (12%), family member (20%), lawyer (8%) and 5% reached out to a spiritual advisor. Only 17% contacted a service agency to seek help for the abuse.

Canadian Council on Social Development (2006), p.19

Women and Poverty in Canada

  • Women form the majority of the poor in Canada. One in seven Canadian women is living in poverty. Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (2005), p.1
  • Women make up a disproportionate share of the population in Canada with low incomes. In 2003, 1.9 million females, 12% of the total female population, were living in an after tax low- income situation. Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.143
  • Women generally have lower incomes than men. In 2003, the average annual pre-tax income of women aged 16 and over from all sources was $24,400. This was just 62% of the average annual pre-tax income for men, which was $39,300 that year. Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.143
  • In 2005, women working full-time for the full year earned an average of $39,200, or 70.5% as much as comparable men who earned an average of $55,700. The pay gap is even greater for university-educated women, who earned just 68% as much as men in 2005, down from 75% a decade ago. Canadian Labour Congress (2008), p.1
  • Rates of spousal assault were twice as high for women with a household income of less than $60,000 compared with those with higher incomes. Canada, Statistics Canada (2006a), p.40

Women's Experiences of Poverty in Diverse Groups

Lone-Parent Mothers

The poverty rate for lone-parent mothers was 48.9% in 2003, the highest rate for any family type.

National Council of Welfare (2006)

In 2003, 38% of all families headed by lone-parent mothers had incomes which fell below the poverty line compared to 13% of male lone-parent families and 7% of non-elderly two-parent families.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.144

The average income of families headed by female lone parents in 2003 was $32,500, 38% the figure for non-elderly two-spouse families with children and less than 60% than that of lone-parent families headed by men (who had an average income of $54,700).

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.134

In 2003, 43% of all children in a low-income family were living with a single female parent, whereas these families accounted for only 13% of all children under age 18 that year.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.144

Senior Women

Wage gaps and low-income over the course of a working lifetime condemn many older women to low- income, with the low-income rate of single elderly women significantly exceeding that of men (8.4% compared to 3.2% in 2005).

Canadian Labour Congress (2008), p.7

In 2003, senior women (aged 65 and over) had an average income of just over $20,000, more than $10,000 less than senior men.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.278

In 2003, the share of senior women with low incomes was twice as high as that of senior men.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.143

Aboriginal Women

In 2000, 36% of Aboriginal women, compared with 17% of non-Aboriginal women were living in poverty.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.200

The median income of Aboriginal women in 2000 was $12,300, compared to $15,500 for Aboriginal men, and $17,300 for non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women living on reserve had the lowest median income at just under $11,000, while those living in Census Metropolitan Areas had a median income of almost $14,000.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.199

In 2001,17% of Aboriginal women in the labour force were unemployed, compared with 7% for non- Aboriginal women. Those living in reserve areas experienced the highest unemployment rate at 22%, compared to 17% for those living in small and mid- sized urban centres, 16% for those living in rural non-reserve locales, and 14% for those living in major metropolitan areas.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.199

Visible Minority Women

In 2002, 13% of visible minority women reported that they had experienced some form of discrimination in a work place setting either while on the job or when applying for a job or promotion in the five previous years.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.255

Black women are in double jeopardy in terms of income. Being Black, they belong to a minority whose income is among the lowest in Canada. Being women, they have less income than Black men.

Canadian Association of Social Workers (2005), p.2

The average wage of Black women is 79% of what Black men earn and only 57% of what all Canadian

Canadian Association of Social Workers (2005), p.2men earn.

Immigrant Women

The average earnings of recently arrived immigrant women are relatively low. Foreign-born women who arrived in Canada between 1991 and 2000 averaged a little over $28,000 for full-year, full-time employment in 2000, roughly 20% below the figures for both all immigrant and non-immigrant women.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.226

Education does not reduce the income gap between immigrant women and Canadian-born women. This is partly because of overt racism, but also structural racism, including the lack of recognition of foreign credentials and experience.

Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (2005), p.2

The average income of female immigrants aged 15 and older was just 61% of that of their male counterparts in 2000, about the same as the figure (62%) among the Canadian-born population.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.227

In 2001, 8.1% of all female labour force participants born outside the country were classified as unemployed, compared with 7.0% of those born in Canada.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.225

Women With Disabilities

In 2000, 26% of all women with disabilities aged 15 and over lived in poverty, compared with 20% of men with disabilities and 16% of women with no disabilities.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.297

In 2000, women with disabilities aged 15 and over had an average income from all sources of $17,200, versus $26,900 for men with disabilities in this age range.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.296

The unemployment rate among women with disabilities in the labour force was 10% in 2001, double the figure for other women that year.

Canada, Statistics Canada (2006b), p.295

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