Nunavut tops territories, Canada in rate of violence between intimate partners

Nunavut’s rate twice that of the NWT, more than 13 times the Canadian rate.

By SAMANTHA DAWSON

Rates of intimate partner violence in the territories are still considerably higher than any of the provinces, Statistics Canada says in a “measuring violence against women” report released Feb. 25.

Nunavut’s rate of intimate partner violence is four times higher than Yukon’s rate, and twice that of the Northwest Territories — and more than 13 times the overall Canadian rate.

The report, with data gathered by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, shows that in all of Canada, the prevalence of sexual offenses, like other violent crimes, is higher in the territories, with Nunavut women facing risks that are 12 times greater than the provincial average.

When it comes to shelter use, the territories also have higher usage rage than the provinces.

In all Canadian provinces and territories, seven in 10 admissions to shelters were because of abuse, and many women had been admitted more than once.

The report found that in the territories:

• similarly to the provinces, victims of spousal abuse tend to be young and women under the age of 35, who were three times as likely as women over age 35 to have experienced violence by a current or previous spouse within the last five years;

• participation in evening activities had no impact on prevalence of spousal abuse;

• activity limitation increases risk of non-spousal violent victimization;

• aboriginal persons are more at risk for spousal and non-spousal violence;

• spousal violence is much more prevalent among women who experienced emotional and financial abuse: in 2009, over four in ten of women living in the territories reported physical or sexual abuse by a current or previous spouse, which was 20 times higher than the number of women who never experienced emotional or financial abuse;

• women with lower incomes experience higher rates of spousal violence: women in the territories with an income of less than $60,000 were found to be three times as likely as other women to report spousal violence: 19 per cent versus six per cent;

• heavy drinking increases the risk for women’s spousal victimization: in contrast to the provinces, women in the territories who drank more than five drinks in one sitting were more likely to be victimized by a spouse over the last five years;

• for non-spousal violence, women who used drugs had a victimization rate almost seven times higher than the rate of those who did not; and,

• any mental illness increases the risk of spousal and non-spousal victimization.

Further, six in 10 women in the territories reported spousal violence to police, a number that was higher than in the provinces.

The three most common actions taken by police: conducting an investigation, visiting a scene, and giving warning to the accused.

When it comes to non-spousal violence, the rates of reporting to the police mirror the provinces, with about three in 10 incidents being reported to the police.

That’s because one in six people either chose to deal with it in some other way, about half did not think it was important enough to report, and about half did not want police involved.

Female victims in the territories often rely on “informal sources of support” to cope with violence, the report found.

Almost nine in 10 female victims of spousal violence turned to family members, friends, or neighbors for help.

The same went for almost six in 10 male victims of spousal violence.

The report found that, overall, aboriginal women have a higher likelihood of being victimized, compared to the rest of the female population.

Aboriginal women in Canada differ in some key ways: the number of aboriginal females is growing at a faster pace than non-aboriginal females, the population is generally younger, more likely to be unmarried, and experience higher levels of unemployment.

The House of Commons standing committee on the status of women found that other larger issues come into play, such as loss of understanding of history and culture, economic and social inequalities, and residential school experiences.

The result: aboriginal women show a rate of victimization 2.5 times higher than non-aboriginal women.

This is partially explained by the presence of risk factors.

But for non-spousal violence, “while aboriginal women also experienced much higher rates of non-spousal violence compared to non-aboriginal women, other factors could not fully explain this heightened risk,” the report said.

In Nunavut, the Premier Eva Aariak promised to release a family violence strategy by the end of 2011, to help lower rates of violence against women, but the strategy has still not been released.

The strategy was first announced in Dec. 2010, stemming from a 2006 symposium called Inuuqatigiitsiarniq, where more than 100 Nunavummiut participants said the solution to violence must come from within communities.

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