Violence against women: Canada needs federal strategy, report says (Toronto Star, July 11, 2013)

Violence against women: Canada needs federal strategy, report says (Toronto Star, July 11, 2013)

The lack of both data and a national strategy to address violence against women in Canada is stalling progress to end the problem, says a new report being released Thursday.

What little data there is shows the problem is pricey, says the report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The combined cost of adult sexual assault and intimate partner violence is about $9 billion, or $334 per person a year, according to the report. (Victims in these crimes are mostly women.)

This is comparable to the cost of illegal drugs (estimated at about $262 per person) or smoking (about $541 per person), the report says. And yet federal spending to tackle violence against women was less than $3 per person in 2011-12.

“The question is not how much more do we need to spend to address this issue, but how much can we save by working to end these forms of violence,” says the report, titled The Gap in the Gender Gap: Violence Against Women in Canada.

“This problem affects too many Canadians and comes with too great a personal and public cost for Canada to continue on its current path,” it says.

Regular detailed surveys of the incidence of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, coupled with a coherent national action plan co-ordinated with provinces, would make a significant difference, says the report’s author, Kate McInturff.

“If we don’t know when levels of violence go up and down, then we don’t know when our interventions are working and when they aren’t,” she told the Star.

McInturff, who heads the left-leaning research agency’s Making Women Count Project, used various Statistics Canada reports and a recent federal Justice Canada study to estimate the incidence and cost of violence against women. But the lack of consistent information about the scope and nature of the violence is a serious barrier to progress, she said.

A well-designed 1993 Statistics Canada survey of women’s experience of violence was never repeated, McInturff said.

Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on victimization, conducted every five years, is the only regular measure of adult sexual assault and intimate partner violence. But it is not sufficiently detailed or frequent enough to provide reliable data.

Current federal and provincial spending in the area was difficult to track because it is often included in larger programs such as victims services or mixed with private funding as is the case with shelters and rape crisis centres, McInturff said.

“We need to know how much it costs and how much is being spent in order to evaluate where public funds will have the greatest impact,” the report says.

Violence against women is a stated priority area of the federal government, the report notes. But federal co-ordination and information sharing is not enough.

“This is a nationwide problem and we are never going to see progress without some kind of national-level leadership,” McInturff said.

A spokeswoman for federal Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose said she would not comment until she had seen the report.

Violence Against Women in Canada statistics:

  • 677,000 adults, mostly women, reported sexual assault in past five years
  • 1.2 million reported intimate partner violence in past five years
  • 70 per cent of women who reported spousal assault were working
  • 71 per cent had college or university degrees
  • 57 per cent who reported sexual assault were working
  • 29 per cent were students
  • One-third who reported sexual assault had household incomes of $100,000 or more

Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Reposted with permission from social justice reporter at the Toronto Star.  Report republished with permission from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

To download the report, please visit Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives here or download from Springtide's resource page.