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Gender-Based Violence: What is it?

(*information taken from Government of Canada, 2022)

Gender based violence refers to the harm faced by individuals solely based on their gender, gender expression, gender identity or perceived gender.   Certain populations experience this violence disproportionately.  Those include:

  • Women
  • Young women and girls;
  • Indigenous women and girls
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB) and people of other sexual orientation than heterosexual;
  • Transgender and gender diverse people;
  • Women living in Northern, rural, and remote communities; and,
  • Women living with disabilities.

The intersection of any two or more of the above mentioned characteristics may increase a person’s risk and vulnerability to violence. In other words, people who have more than one of these characteristics, such as being a young woman living with a disability, may be even at a higher risk of GBV.

Research also shows that other groups experience high levels of GBV as well, including:

  • Black women;
  • Newcomer women to Canada

The negative effects of GBV reach far beyond the individuals who directly experience them. Violence can have long-lasting and negative health, social and economic effects that span generations, which can lead to cycles of violence and abuse within families and sometimes whole communities. GBV holds us all back.

GBV is not limited to physical violence and can include any word, action, or attempt to degrade, control, humiliate, intimidate, coerce, deprive, threaten, or harm another person. GBV can take many forms including cyber, physical, sexual, societal, psychological, emotional, and economic. Neglect, discrimination, and harassment can also be forms of GBV.


  • Three in ten (29%) women 15 to 24 years of age reported having experienced at least one incident of IPV in the 12 months preceding the survey, more than double the proportion found among women between the ages of 25 to 34 or 35 to 44, and close to six times higher than that among women 65 years of age or older.Footnote2Access more information on GBV key statistics for young women and girls.
  • Self-reported data collected in 2018 shows that Indigenous women (61%) were more likely to experience some form of IPV in their lifetime (since the age of 15) compared with non-Indigenous women (44%).Footnote3Access more information on GBV key statistics for Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual Plus) people.
  • Overall, two-thirds (67%) of LGB+ women who had ever been in an intimate partner relationship had experienced at least one type of IPV since the age of 15–significantly more than among heterosexual women (44%).Footnote4Access more information on GBV key statistics for lesbian, gay, bisexual and people of a sexual orientation that is not heterosexual.
  • Transgender and gender diverse people in Canada were significantly more likely than cisgender people to having been physically or sexually assaulted at least once since age 15 (59% versus 37%, respectively).Footnote5Access more information on GBV key statistics for transgender and gender diverse people.
  • In 2019, women living in rural areas of the provinces of Canada experienced rates of intimate partner violence that were almost twice as high as women living in urban areas (860 versus 467 victims per 100,000 population), with rates close to four times higher than those for men in these areas (246).Footnote6Access more information on GBV key statistics for women living in Northern, remote and rural areas.
  • Among people who had ever been in an intimate partner relationship, more than half (55%) of women with disabilities reported experiencing some form of IPV in their lifetime (since the age of 15), compared to 37% of women without disabilities.Footnote7Access more information on GBV key statistics for women living with disabilities.
  • Among students attending a postsecondary institution located in the provinces of Canada, almost one in seven (15%) women students were sexually assaulted in the postsecondary setting at least once since they started their studies – three times the proportion of men students who experienced the same (5%).Footnote8Access more information on GBV key statistics for postsecondary student population.
  • Among people who had ever been in an intimate partner relationship, 29% of women belonging to an ethno-cultural group designated as a visible minority reported experiencing some kind of psychological, physical, or sexual violence committed by an intimate partner in their lifetime (since the age of 15), significantly less than among non-visible minority women (47%).Footnote9Access more information on GBV key statistics for visible minority women.
  • In 2019, 4,518 seniors (aged 65 and older) experienced family violence in Canada. Among them, 2,613 were women accounting for the majority of victims (58%). This translated into higher rates of family violence among senior women than senior men (78 victims versus 65 per 100,000 population).Footnote10Access more information on GBV key statistics for senior women.

Domestic & Intimate Partner Violence 


Domestic violence — also called intimate partner violence — occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual, and physical abuse and threats of abuse. Domestic violence can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.

Abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses intimidating, hurtful words and behaviors to control their partner.

It might not be easy to identify domestic violence at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the onset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time. You might be experiencing domestic violence if you're in a relationship with someone who: 


Same Sex Relationships

If you identify as 2SLGBTQ+ you might also be experiencing domestic and/or intimate partner violence if you're in a relationship with someone who:

  • Tells you that authorities won't help you based on your sexuality and identity
  • Tells you that leaving the relationship means you're admitting that your relationship is deviant
  • Tells you that women can't be violent
  • Justifies abuse by telling you that you're not "really" 2SLGBTQ+

Pregnancy, Children and Abuse

Content: (Sometimes domestic and/or intimate partner violence begins — or increases — during pregnancy, putting your health and the baby's health at risk. The danger continues after the baby is born.

Even if your child isn't abused, simply witnessing domestic violence can be harmful. Children who grow up in abusive homes are more likely to experience abuse in their future relationships and have increased behavioral problems. As adults, they're more likely to become abusers or think abuse is a normal part of relationships.

Here's a video that explains the impact of violence on children: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) - Bing video

You might worry that telling the truth will further endanger you, your child or other family members — and that it might break up your family — but seeking help is the best way to protect your children and yourself.)

Who does it impact?

Content: (If you're an immigrant, you may be hesitant to seek help out of fear that you will be deported. Language barriers, lack of economic dependence and limited social support can increase your isolation and your ability to access resources.
Laws in Canada guarantee protection from domestic abuse, regardless of your immigrant status. Free or low-cost resources are available, including lawyers, shelter and medical care for you and your children. You may also be eligible for legal protections that allow immigrants who experience domestic violence to stay in Canada.
Call a national domestic violence hotline for guidance. These services are free and protect your privacy.

If you're an older woman,you may face challenges related to your age and the length of your relationship. You may have grown up in a time when domestic violence was simply not discussed. You or your partner may have health problems that increase your dependency or sense of responsibility.

If you're in a same-sex relationship, you might be less likely to seek help after an assault if you don't want to disclose your sexual orientation. If you've been sexually assaulted by another woman, you might also fear that you won't be believed.

The only way to break the cycle of domestic violence is to take action. Start by telling someone about the abuse, whether it's a friend, loved one, health care provider or other close contact. You can also call a national domestic violence hotline. At first, you might find it hard to talk about the abuse. But understand that you are not alone and there are people who can help you. You'll also likely feel relief and receive much-needed support.

Sexual Violence 


Sexual violence refers to any form of unwanted sexual contact. That includes sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Sexual assault refers to unwanted sexual activity (e.g. touching, kissing someone without consent, rape). Sexual harassment can include comments, behaviour, and unwanted sexual contact. It can take the form of jokes, threats, and discriminatory remarks about someone’s gender or sexuality. It can happen in person or online.

Sexual violence is a form of gender-based violence rooted in gender inequality and injustice. It can happen in various circumstances including between people in romantic relationships, in families, at work, between friends and acquaintances, and with strangers. It often occurs in private places between people who know each other.