Family violence: how big is the problem in Canada?

Of all reported violent crime in 2015, more than one quarter (26%) resulted from family violence. 1 Almost 70% of family violence victims were women and girls. 1

Women are victims of intimate partner violence more often and more severely than men

  • 79% of police reported intimate partner violence is against women. 1
  • Women were victims of intimate partner homicide at a rate four times greater than men. 2

Family violence is under-reported

Experts know that rates of all forms of family violence are underestimated. For example, in 2014, fewer than one in five (19%) who had been abused by their spouse reported abuse to police. 3

There are many reasons why people don't report family violence. One is because of the stigma associated with it. Young children may not report violence because they may have limited contacts outside the family in whom they can safely confide.

Intimate partner violence

Here are some findings from recent reports on family violence and violence against women:

Women are more likely to experience severe spousal violence compared to men
Compared to men, women who experience spousal violence are:

  • twice as likely to report being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or a knife. E 3
  • more likely to report higher rates of injury caused by abuse (40% of female victims compared to 24% of male victims). 3
  • more likely to experience long term PTSD-like effects than men. 3
  • more likely to report being put down or called names than men. 3

Indigenous women are more likely to experience spousal violence 4

  • Nearly 60% E of Indigenous women who reported spousal abuse also reported being physically injured as a result of it versus 41% E of non- Indigenous women. 4
  • Half of the Indigenous women experiencing violence reported the most severe forms of violence: being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked, or threatened with a gun or a knife. E 4

Young women have the highest rates overall

  • According to police-reported data in 2015, women aged 15-24 present the highest rates of dating violence. 3

Same-sex relationships

  • Women who self-identified as lesbian or bisexual reported significantly higher rates of violence by a partner than heterosexual women (11 E % vs. 3%). 3

Child abuse and neglect

In the 2012, Canadian Community Health Survey- Mental Health, 32% of Canadian adults reported that they had experienced some form of abuse before the age of 16: 5

  • 26% had experienced physical abuse;
  • 10% had experienced sexual abuse;
  • 8% had experienced exposure to intimate partner violence

According to 2015 police-report data:

  • Among children and youth victims of violence reported to police, 30% were victims of family violence perpetrated by parents, siblings, extended family member or spouse. 1
  • Girls were 4 times more likely than boys to be victims of child sexual abuse by a family member. 1
  • Girls between the ages of 14-17 were almost twice as likely to be victims of family-related violence, compared to their male counterparts. 1

Rates of child abuse by type of abuse

According to data from child welfare agencies in Canada in 2008 6, children were exposed to the following types of abuse:
- Exposure to intimate partner violence (34%)
- Neglect (34%)
- Physical abuse (20%)
- Emotional abuse (9%)
- Sexual abuse (3%)

Senior abuse & neglect

According to a 2015 Statistics Canada report:

  • Nearly 4% of victims of family violence were 65 years or older. 1
  • Nearly 61% of incidents of elder abuse were physical assaults against older adults, and 21% involved threats. 1
  • 33% of older adults were victimized by a family member. 1
    • Among women victims, 33% were victimised by their spouse and 27% by their grown child. 1
    • In comparison, among men, the victim's grown child was the most common perpetrator. 1


E: Estimate should be used with Caution


  1. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (2017). “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2015.” Juristat, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
  2. Miladinovic, Z. and Mulligan, L. (2015). “Homicide in Canada, 2014.” Juristat, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
  3. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (2016). "Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2014." Juristat, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
  4. Boyce, J. (2016). “Victimisation Aboriginal People in Canada, 2014.” Juristat, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
  5. Afifi, T. O., MacMillan, H. L., Boyle, M., Taillieu, T., Cheung, K., & Sareen, J. (2014). Child abuse and mental disorders in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(9), E324-E332.
  6. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2010). Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect - 2008: Major Findings. Ottawa, ON.
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