What you need to know about gender-based domestic violence in Canada


One major public health problem that is proving to be endemic is the continuous prevalence of gender-based violence. It has increasingly become the most common violation of human rights even before the coronavirus pandemic began—growing further at the height of it.

The United Nations defines gender-based violence as harmful behaviour targeted toward a specific group of individuals based on their gender and these actions are deeply rooted in gender inequality, power intoxication and abuse, alongside harmful norms. However, gender-based violence can be in either physical or emotional form or more often, both forms of abuse.

If you’ve ever experienced physical violence like being kicked, slapped, hit, bitten, strangled, or being attacked by a weapon, or sexual violence and harassment like rape, stalking, unsolicited touching and other forms of sexual assault, then you’ve been a victim of a form of gender-based violence. Financial or economic abuse is also another form of gender-based violence where the attacker takes control of the victim’s finances, making them seek permission before accessing or spending their own money, or stopping them from getting a job they desire. Name-calling and emotional or psychological blackmail is another form of this widespread abuse.

Abuse can occur regardless of whether your attacker is a stranger, family member, current or former friend or partner in a same-sex or heterosexual relationship. Victims of this type of abuse range in ages, races, cultures, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities. It doesn’t matter what your identity, circumstance, or background is, anyone can be a victim of abuse.

Violence against women is still the most prevalent form of gender-based domestic violence and those who are part of a minority group like non-binary and two-spirit individuals are at a higher risk of abuse, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. For instance, racialized, homeless, indigenous, transgender women and those with disabilities. It is important to seek help immediately from a sexual assault lawyer in Halifax if you’re a victim of any form of gender-based domestic violence.

Searching for a singular cause of gender-based violence in Canada would leave you on a wild goose chase. This form of abuse is a result of several cultural, social, and economic factors. For instance, some cultures believe it is normal to main some strict level of control or dominance over a partner or that resorting to violence is necessary for solving certain problems. For others, their violence against certain genders may have been a result of the environment they grew up in—either experiencing it themselves or being first-hand witnesses. All of this can make the attacker normalize violence and naturalize it in relationships without feeling any remorse. Other causes like colonial systems and laws, especially towards Metis, First Nations, and Inuit women are also responsible for gender-based violence in Canada.

Several factors such as lack of support for victims, inequality between men and women, unpleasant childhood experiences, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, poverty and economic insecurity, unemployment, exposure to violence in media, video games and many more make it quite difficult to pin-point one contributing factor for gender-based violence in Canada.

Nonetheless, the impact of gender-based violence on the victim as well as their family, friends and community can be incredibly profound. The impact can spread across their physical, mental, emotional, financial and even spiritual well-being. Many victims of this form of abuse suffer physical injuries, health complications, sexually transmitted diseases, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other forms of physical, mental, and emotional disorders. For those who were previously spiritual, there is the tendency to lose faith or start feeling disconnected from cultural beliefs.

Disturbing statistics have shown that children under the age of 16 who have witnessed domestic abuse are twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who haven’t while those who witnessed domestic violence in their homes are twice at risk of experiencing psychiatric disorders.

A child’s growth can be affected drastically by a violent environment, and this can result in several behavioural and emotional disorders such as phobias, aggressiveness, bullying and anxiety. That’s why adults who were exposed to such violence as children end up becoming either victim of abuse or perpetrators.

 Tackling gender-based violence is extremely important as it affects everyone in society. In Canada, one woman dies every six days due to domestic and gender-based violence and the Canadian government spends billions of dollars yearly on legal, health care, lost productivity, and law enforcement expenses. Dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence is quite expensive and can cost as high as $7.4 billion, according to the Department of Justice.

Furthermore, women who are victims of domestic abuse struggle with financial independence and studies have shown that this abuse can occur even in a corporate environment and can include verbal abuse, emotional blackmail and homicide. Typical culprits of workplace violence are external customers, supervisors, clients, partners and colleagues.

A lot of questions are usually being asked on how to effectively provide help to a victim of gender-based violence. Due to the delicate nature of most cases of domestic abuse, most people don’t know what to do to help those in abusive or dangerous situations. Only 1 in 6 people know what to do to help people in physical, sexual, emotional or other forms of abuse, according to a survey by the Canadian Women’s Foundation. These statistics are almost the same even when it comes to family and friends being victims of such abuse.

There are a few things you can do when you suspect someone you know is being subjected to abuse. Always ensure that you instil confidence in them by not doubting their experience. It can be quite difficult for someone being abused to come forward and when they do, you should give them the benefit of doubt. Let them know they can confide in you and you’re willing to listen to them if they have anything to say.

However, while it might be aggravating learning that a loved one is a victim of abuse, it is still important to respect their decisions, especially if they may not want to involve law enforcement. Offer them as much practical and emotional support as you can, including sharing helpful resources on how they can navigate experiences like theirs. Signing up to become a Signal for Help Responder can help you gain access to an action guide which may help recognize signs of abuse and respond effectively. There’s still the good old 911 or your local emergency number to call for assistance in emergencies.

Preventing gender-based violence requires a lot of effort from everyone to create a safer and more equitable world. It is a common and complex problem that has no easy solutions, hence its high prevalence rate. While the fight against gender-based violence continues, several things can be done to prevent it in our society. Proper education about it and fighting racism and other forms of discrimination can be a great start. It is also important to show public support for victims of abuse and ensure that perpetrators of violence are held accountable for their actions. Families also need to promote healthy relationships and positive masculinity to ensure they raise children who would become responsible adults.

About the writer:

This article was published with the help of dNovo Group, Law Firm Marketing Agency in Toronto.