HELP Toolkit: Identifying and Responding to Family Violence for Family Law Legal Advisers – Supplemental Material

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Tab #8: Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is more common than many people may realize and causes significant short- and long-term emotional, physical, social and financial issues for many Canadians. While statistics alone cannot explain how an individual actually experiences the abuse, the data do help identify the prevalence, incidents, common characteristics of victims and offenders, and the direct and indirect impacts of IPV.

1. While both women and men self-report experiencing IPV, there are differences in the type, severity, frequency and impacts of abuse they experience

Statistics indicate that:Endnote 56

2. Impacts of intersecting identity factors

Data show that some populations are more at risk of IPV than others. For example:

For some victims, intersecting identity factors can not only increase the risk of IPV, but also create additional challenges in deciding whether to leave or stay in an abusive relationship. In fact, some populations are more vulnerable to IPV not because they are abused more often, but because when they are abused, they face greater barriers in gaining access to the resources and supports they need.Endnote 62 For instance, victims of IPV who live in rural communities are more likely to feel isolated or trapped due to the remoteness and lower availability of community services.Endnote 63

3. Intimate partner homicideEndnote 64

Between 2014 and 2019, there were 497 victims of intimate partner homicide. The large majority of victims were women (80%). Of these female victims, 75% were killed by a current or former spouse or common-law partner and 25% were killed by their non-spousal intimate partner, such as a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend. Male victims of intimate partner homicide were also more likely to be killed by a current or former spouse or common-law partner (65%) than a non-spousal partner (35%). From 1997 to 2016, women represented 18% (or 323) of those accused of intimate partner homicide and men represented 82% (or 1,480).Endnote 65 While the research-documented indicators of the potential for intimate partner homicides are complex, between 2008 and 2018, six in ten (60%) intimate partner homicides involved a known history of family violence.Endnote 66

4. The period around separation or divorce is a time of heightened risk for abuse

IPV often continues after the relationship ends and can intensify when the abuser perceives their partner is thinking about leaving. Risk can also increase when circumstances change, such as when the victim enters a new intimate relationship, or if the abuser loses their job or experiences changes to their mental health (e.g., suicidal thoughts, depression).Endnote 67

According to 2019 self-reported data, 45% of victims of spousal violence indicated that they suffered abuse after their relationship with their ex-spouse or partner had ended.Endnote 68 In addition, almost half of those who reported post-separation abuse in the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization stated that the severity of the abuse increased after the relationship ended. Both men and women were likely to report this escalation following a separation.Endnote 69

The period right before and after separation is when victims of IPV are at the highest risk of being killed by their ex-partner. From 2007 to 2011, a woman’s risk of being killed by a spouse she was separated from was nearly six times higher than the risk from a spouse with whom she was still living.Endnote 70 An Ontario Domestic Homicide Death Review conducted from 2003 and 2018 found that, out of 329 cases, 67% of homicides involved a couple with an actual or pending separation.Endnote 71