Violence Perpetrated by Ex-spouses in Canada

1. Introduction

Intimate partner violence affects the lives of many Canadians. In 2011, there were 97,451 victims of police-reported intimate partner violenceFootnote 1 (Sinha 2013) with women representing 80% of the victims of police-reported intimate partner violence in 2011.

While these numbers provide some insight into the prevalence of spousal violenceFootnote 2 in Canada, it only reflects a small portion of the actual violence that occurs. Data from the 2009 General Social Survey - Victimization (GSS) found that only 22% of victims of self-reported spousal violence reported the incident to the police (Brennan 2011). These numbers also do not provide information on the prevalence of violence perpetrated by ex-spouses, nor the experiences of victims of ex-spousal violence.

While data exist on violence perpetrated by current spouses, very little information is available on the experiences of ex-spousal violence in Canada. In 2001, Hotton published the report, Spousal Violence after Marital Separation, which was based on data from the 1999 GSS. This report provided great insight into the prevalence of ex-spousal violence in Canada, as well as on experiences of victims of ex-spousal violence. With data from the 2009 GSS, it is possible to look at these same issues using the most current data available.

The purpose of this report is to provide an update on the 2001 Spousal Violence after Marital Separation report using data from the 2009 GSS. This report explores Canadians' experiences with violenceFootnote 3 committed by ex-spouses,Footnote 4 including the prevalence of ex-spousal violence, violence experienced after separation and the emotional consequences of ex-spousal violence. The prevalence of child witnesses to ex-spousal violence is discussed, as is information on the issues surrounding child residence and contact in situations of ex-spousal violence. Finally, the issue of reporting ex-spousal violence to police is explored.

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