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Statistics: Sexual Violence

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Sexual violence is more common than people think…

  • It is estimated that about one in three Canadian women will experience sexual assault in their adult life. In fact, statistics indicate that 39% of women report having experienced at least one incidence of sexual assault since the age of 16 (1993).1
  • Among female clients who turn to victims services because they have experienced violent crime, 35% are seeking help for a crime that is sexual in nature (2009-2010).2
  • There were 7,979 police-reported sexual assaults in Ontario in 2012.3

Sexual assault is not decreasing…

  • The rate of police-reported sexual assaults against women increased in 2010 and remained stable in 2011.4

Sexual violence is a gendered crime most often perpetrated by men against women…

  • Women are eleven times more likely than men to be victims of sexual offences (2011).5
  • There were over 15,500 police-reported victims of sexual offences aged 15 years and older in 2009. 92% of these victims were women.6
  • In terms of self-reported sexual assault, 7 out of 10 incidents are committed against women (2009).7
  • In 99% of sexual violence incidents committed against women, the accused perpetrator is male. This over-representation of males is more prevalent in sexual crimes than other violent crimes against women (where 82% of the accused are male) (2011).8

Women are more likely than men to experience injuries in cases of sexual assault…

  • 25% of women sustain injuries, in comparison to 15% of men (2011).9

Sexual violence takes many forms…

  • 81% of sexual assault incidents against women involve unwanted sexual touching; the remaining 19% involve sexual attacks. These patterns have remained constant over the last 10 years (2009).10
  • 91% of sexual offences against women are level 1 sexual assaults. 75% of these are characterized by the absence of physical injury, while 25% involve the infliction of minor physical injuries (2009).11
  • 7% of sexual offences consist of other sex crimes, such as voyeurism and sexual exploitation. 5% of these offences result in physical injury, and when they do, the injuries are minor (2009).12
  • 2% of sexual offences are level 2 sexual assaults with a weapon (2009).13
  • Less than 1% of sexual offences are level 3 aggravated sexual assaults (2009).14

While level 2 and level 3 sexual assaults are the least common, they are also the most violent…

  • 9% of female victims of level 2 sexual assaults and 38% of female victims of level 3 aggravated sexual assaults require professional medical attention (2009).15

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported violent crimes…

  • Sexual assaults perpetrated by someone other than a spouse are least likely to come to the attention of police: 90% are not reported to police (2009).16
  • As for women who experience sexual assault in spousal relationships, only 53% contact police (2009).17
  • Given the stated reporting levels for sexual assault, actual rates of sexual violence are likely much higher than official estimates.18
  • Women may not report because they fear they will not be believed, feel ashamed, blame themselves, or fear public scrutiny.19

There is a significant difference between the number of alleged sexual assaults and the number of convictions…

  • It is estimated that 0.3% of perpetrators of sexual assault are held accountable, while over 99% are not.20

Conviction rates for sexual assault are lower than for other violent crimes…

  • Sexual offences are less likely than other types of violent crime to result in a finding of guilt.21
  • However, those found guilty of sexual offences in adult court are more likely to receive sentences that include prison terms compared to other violent crimes.22

Many sexual assaults remain unsolved…

  • 44% of sexual offences against women are unsolved, meaning that an accused was either not identified or there was insufficient evidence to lay a charge (2011).23

Perpetrators are often known to the victim…

  • Sexual assault can occur between spouses or within intimate relationships. Sexual assault within marriage was defined as a criminal offence in 1983.24
  • Women know their sexual attacker in three-quarters of incidents: 45% as a casual acquaintance or friend, 17% as an intimate partner and 13% as a non-spousal family member. The remaining 25% of sexual assaults are committed by a stranger (2011).25
  • Sexual assaults can occur in private residences, restaurants and bars, schools, and office buildings.26

Specific groups of women are disproportionately affected…

  • Women under the age of 35 have non-spousal sexual assault victimization rates five times higher than those of their older counterparts (73 versus 14 incidents per 1,000 population) (2009).27
  • It is estimated that between 15% to 25% of North American college and university-aged women will experience some form of sexual assault during their academic career.28
  • Aboriginal women and women with disabilities are at increased risk of experiencing sexual assault.29

Sexual offences are the most common offence against young girls…

  • 47% of violent crimes against girls under the age of 12 are sexual in nature: 69% are level 1 sexual assaults, while 28% are child-specific sexual offences such as sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, and luring a child via a computer (2011).30

Female youth are more likely than male youth to be victims of sexual offences… •

  • Female youth aged 12 to 17 are eight times more likely than male youth to be victims of sexual assault or another type of sexual offence (2011).31

Alcohol is a common factor in sexual assault…

  • Alcohol, not Rohypnol or other “date rape drugs”, is the most common drug involved in drug-facilitated sexual assault.32

It may be difficult to recognize that a sexual assault has occurred…

  • Sexual assault may not leave obvious physical injuries. A perpetrator may use coercive actions, such as threats or the presence of weapons that do not leave obvious marks.33
  • Lack of physical injury does not mean a woman was not sexually assaulted.34

Sexual assault can be very traumatic and women respond differently…

  • There are many different reactions to sexual assault. You cannot tell if a woman has been sexually assaulted by her behaviour.35
  • A woman who has been assaulted may be crying, or she may be calm. She may be silent, or she may be very angry and articulate.36
  • The effects of sexual assault may occur immediately after the assault, or many years later.37
  • Sexual assault can have many direct physical consequences for women…

    • Health consequences of sexual assault include physical injury, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.38

    Sexual assault can also cause severe and long-term harm to victims and the wider community…

    • For victims, this can include anxiety and panic attacks, eating disorders, substance abuse, depression and other mental health problems.39
    • Society is also impacted through lost productivity, and costs to the health care system resulting from long-term physical and mental health issues faced by victims. Working towards preventing sexual violence before it occurs can help prevent these long-term impacts.40


    1Statistics Canada. (2006). Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 24.

    2Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 106.

    3Statistics Canada. (2013). Table 7 Police-reported crime for selected offences, by province and territory, 2012. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Uniform Crime Reporting Survey. Retrieved on October 24, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2013001/article/11854/tbl/tbl07-eng.htm.

    4Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 13.

    5Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 8.

    6Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 29.

    7Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 31.

    8Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 31.

    9Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 84.

    10Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 31.

    11Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 29.

    12Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 29.

    13Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 29.

    14Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 29.

    15Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 29.

    16Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 96.

    17Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 95.

    18Status of Women Canada. (2013). Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends – Key Findings – Sexual Violence. Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Forum of Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women. Retrieved on October 23, 2013.

    19Johnson, H. and Dawson, M. (2010). Violence Against Women in Canada: Research and Policy Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press. Pg. 100.

    20Johnson, H. (2012). Limits of a criminal justice response: Trends in police and court processing of sexual assault. In Sheehy, E. (Ed.), Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice, and Women’s Activism. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Pg. 632.

    21Statistics Canada. (2008). Sexual Assault in Canada 2004 and 2007. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 10

    22Statistics Canada. (2008). Sexual Assault in Canada 2004 and 2007. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 10.

    23Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 102.

    24Johnson, H. and Dawson, M. (2010). Violence Against Women in Canada: Research and Policy Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press. Pg. 106.

    25Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 30.

    26Statistics Canada.(2008). Sexual Assault in Canada 2004 and 2007. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 13-14.

    27Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 58.

    28Lichty, L., Campbell, R. and Schuiteman, J. (2008). Developing a University-Wide Institutional Response to Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, Journal of Prevention &Intervention in the Community, 36:1-2. Pg. 6.

    29Statistics Canada. (2006). Victimization and Offending Among the Aboriginal Population in Canada. Juristat 26(3). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg 10.

    30Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 15.

    31Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Pg. 16.

    32The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. (2012). The hard facts. Retrieved on October 28, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.sexualityandu.ca/en/sexual-health/drug_facilitated_sexual_assault/the-hard-facts.

    33Sexual Assault Centre London. Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved on October 28, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.sacl.ca/resources/frequently-asked-questions/.

    34Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres. Dispelling The Myths About Sexual Assault. Retrieved on October 28, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.sexualassaultsupport.ca/Default.aspx?pageId=535956.

    35Guelph-Wellington Action Committee on Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence. The Facts About Sexual Assault. Retrieved on October 28, 2013. Retrieved from http://theactioncommittee.ca/the-facts/sexual-assault/.

    36Guelph-Wellington Action Committee on Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence. The Facts About Sexual Assault. Retrieved on October 28, 2013. Retrieved from http://theactioncommittee.ca/the-facts/sexual-assault/.

    37Table de concertation sur les agressions à caractère sexuel de Montréal. (2012). Information Guide for Sexual Assault Victims. Page 17.

    38United Kingdom, HM Government. (2007). Cross Government Action Plan on Sexual Violence and Abuse. Pg. iii.

    39United Kingdom, HM Government. (2007). Cross Government Action Plan on Sexual Violence and Abuse. Pg. iii.

    40United Kingdom, HM Government. (2007). Cross Government Action Plan on Sexual Violence and Abuse. Pg. iii.