Gender-Based Violence: What is it?
Content: (*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:
- 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
Content: (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.
Same Sex Relationships
Content: 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, 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.
Content: 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.
*Insert wheel (Red wheel)
Who does it impact?
Content: Anybody can experience this violence, no matter their background, identity, or circumstance. But women, girls, and gender-diverse people are at high risk of sexual violence. Some are at even higher risk due to the additional discrimination and barriers they face. This includes women with disabilities, Indigenous women, and women who are homeless or underhoused.
Approximately 4.7 million women (or 30% of all women) aged 15 and older have been sexually assaulted outside of an intimate relationship (Stats Canada, 2019). Sexual assault offenders are often known to those they victimize comprising of 52%. They are either friends, acquaintances and/or neighbours.
Indigenous women are approximately three times more likely to experience sexual assault and are frequently dismissed by the justice system based on ongoing structural violence resulting from colonization and may be associated with unconscious or conscious racial bias (Jodie Murphy-Oikonen et al., Violence Against Women, 2021).
People who identify as homosexual or bisexual have a rate of sexual assault six times higher than those who identify as heterosexual (Shana Conroy & Adam Cotter, Statistics Canada, 2017). Transgender people report higher rates of both physical and sexual assault in their lifetimes compared to cisgender people (Brianna Jaffray, Canadian Centre for Justice & Community Safety Statistics, 2020).
People with disabilities experience sexual violence approximately two times higher than those with no disability (Shana Conroy & Adam Cotter, Statistics Canada, 2017).
People, especially women, who are sexually victimized in childhood are more likely to be victimized in the future, experiencing sexual and physical assault at rates three times higher than those who did not experience childhood sexual violence (Adam Cotter, Statistics Canada, 2021).
Research is also showing that young boys and men are also impacted by sexual violence at staggering rates, however due to social stigmas and how men are “supposed to act”, they are often underreported, with many young boys and men suffering in silence.
Content: Trafficking is referred as describing recruiting, transporting and holding people for the purpose of exploitation. Trafficking is a criminal offence and is a gendered form of violence (Public Safety Canada, 2021). Men who are trafficked are often exploited for physical labour whereas women are often subject to sexual coercion in order to force them into other kinds of labour such as commercial sexual activity (Fay Faraday, 2019).
It is important not to equate trafficking for sexual exploitation with voluntary sex work. “Adult individuals who voluntarily engage in sex work are not, according to the Canadian Criminal Code and UN protocol, being trafficked … While experiencers of human trafficking may be forced into sexual exploitation, it does not follow that all sex workers are exploited or that their activities constitute a form of human trafficking” (Robert Nonomura, 2020). *insert sex work vs HT graphic
Who does it Impact?
Content: It impacts women, girls, people who are 2SLGBTQ+, homeless and marginalized youth, Indigenous women and girls, and those living with addiction, mental illness and developmental disabilities (Ministry of Children, Community & Social Services, 2021).
In Canada, trafficking and exploitation cannot be pulled apart from colonialism and systemic racism, both of which have led to high rates of sexual violence against Indigenous, Black, and racialized women and youth, 2SLGGBTQ+ people, and undocumented people, to name a few (Robert Nonomura, 2020).
Data from 2009 to 2018 show that in 97 per cent of trafficking cases reported to police, survivors are women or girls, and the majority of those are young women (45% are 18 to 24) or girls (28% are under 18) (Adam Cotter, 2020).
Don’t Take the Blame
Content: You may not be ready to seek help because you believe you're at least partially to blame for the abuse in the relationship. Reasons may include:
- Your partner blames you for the violence in your relationship. Abusive partners rarely take responsibility for their actions.
- Your partner only exhibits abusive behavior with you. Abusers are often concerned with outward appearances and may appear charming and stable to those outside of your relationship. This may cause you to believe that their actions can only be explained by something you've done.
- Therapists and doctors who see you alone or with your partner haven't detected a problem. If you haven't told your doctor or other health care providers about the abuse, they may only take note of unhealthy patterns in your thinking or behavior, which can lead to a misdiagnosis. For example, survivors of intimate partner violence may develop symptoms that resemble personality disorders. Exposure to intimate partner violence also increases your risk of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If health care providers focus on your symptoms, this may worsen your fear that you are responsible for the abuse in your relationship.
- You have acted out verbally or physically against your abuser, yelling, pushing, or hitting them during conflicts. You may worry that you are abusive, but it's much more likely that you acted in self-defence or intense emotional distress. Your abuser may use such incidents to manipulate you, describing them as proof that you are the abusive partner.
Break The Cycle
Content: If you're having trouble identifying what's happening, take a step back and look at larger patterns in your relationship. Then, review the signs of domestic violence. In an abusive relationship, the person who routinely uses these behaviors is the abuser. The person on the receiving end is being abused.
If you're in an abusive situation, you might recognize this pattern:
Your abuser threatens violence -> Your abuser strikes-> Your abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts; the cycle repeats itself.
Typically, the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time. The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the greater the physical and emotional toll. You might become depressed and anxious or begin to doubt your ability to take care of yourself. You might feel helpless or paralyzed.
Creating Safety Plans
Content: Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. Consider taking these precautions:
- Call a women's shelter or domestic violence hotline for advice. Make the call at a safe time — when the abuser isn't around — or from a friend's house or other safe location.
- Pack an emergency bag that includes items you'll need when you leave, such as extra clothes and keys. Leave the bag in a safe place. Keep important personal papers, money and prescription medications handy so that you can take them with you on short notice.
- Know exactly where you'll go and how you'll get there.
Who to Call in Oxford County
Content: In an emergency, call 911 — or your local emergency number or law enforcement agency. The following resources also can help:
- Someone you trust. Turn to a friend, loved one, neighbor, co-worker, or religious or spiritual adviser for support.
- Domestic Abuse Services Oxford (Home - DASO): 1-800-265-1938 or text 519-788-9993 (24/7). Call the hotline for crisis intervention and referrals to resources, such as other women's shelters.
- Ingamo Family Homes (Welcome to Ingamo Homes): (519) 421-0383. Call the number for outreach supports as well as Family Court Support.
- Family Violence Counselling Program (CAS Oxford County - Family Violence Counselling): 519-539-1276 extension 380. They offer numerous supports included but not limited to, The Children Exposed to Family Violence (CEFV) program, Healthy Relationship Groups, Caring Dad’s Program, Family Court Support Program, and Partner Contact Program.
- Canadian Mental Health (Home - CMHA Oxford). They offer walk-in counselling services and many programs for kids.
- Your health care provider. Doctors and nurses will treat injuries and can refer you to safe housing and other local resources.
- A local court. The court can help you obtain a restraining order that legally mandates the abuser to stay away from you or face arrest. Local advocates might be available to help guide you through the process.
- It can be hard to recognize or admit that you're in an abusive relationship — but help is available. Remember, no one deserves to be abused.
Content: An abuser can use technology to monitor your telephone and online communication and to track your location. If you're concerned for your safety, seek help. To maintain your privacy:
- Use phones cautiously. Your abuser might intercept calls and listen to your conversations. They might use caller ID, check your cellphone, or search your phone billing records to see your call and texting history.
- Use your home computer cautiously. Your abuser might use spyware to monitor your emails and the websites you visit. Consider using a computer at work, the library or at a friend's house to seek help.
- Remove GPS devices from your vehicle. Your abuser might use a GPS device to pinpoint your location.
- Frequently change your email password. Choose passwords that would be impossible for your abuser to guess.
- Clear your viewing history. Follow your browser's instructions to clear any record of websites or graphics you've viewed.
Supporting Loved Ones
Respond to disclosure
- Believe (“I believe you”)
- Take it seriously
- Refrain from probing or interrogating; it’s not your job to figure out if it’s true or not.
- Empathy (“What happened is not your fault”)
- Recognize the courage it took to say something
- Be an active listener and non-judgmental. Asking “why” questions often feels judgmental. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?” “Why didn’t you tell them to stop?”
- Normalize their emotional reactions whatever they might be.
- Remember: It does not matter what the victim-survivor did or did not do before, during, or after the incident – it is never their fault.
- Safety (“When do you feel most unsafe?” “Do you have any worries or anxieties being at home, at school, out in the community, at work, etc.?”)
- Are there immediate or ongoing safety concerns for the individual who has disclosed?
- Are there kids or other vulnerable people who could be at risk?
- Explore how to re-establish a sense of safety. What accommodations might be helpful?
- Empower (“What would you like to see happen?” “What do you feel you need to move forward?” “How can I best support you?”)
- Refer to someone who can help your loved one explore their options. Let the person decide what they need from these options (medical, legal, therapeutic).
- Let them know who they can turn to for support and guidance. If the person would rather talk to someone else, don’t be offended.
- The victim-survivor should be fully aware of what is being done, who is being contacted, etc. at all times. Always include the victim in any decision being made about them and make sure to check-in frequently.
- Creatively explore ways for the person to have agency and gain a sense of control, while balancing the need to ensure their safety concerns are addressed.
- Understand duty to report and limitations of confidentiality (“Since what happened involves a leader, I need to report this because other people could be at risk. Would you like to report this together? What concerns do you have about this being reported?”)
- If you have reason to believe that a minor is experiencing abuse or is in need of protection you must report it to the local CAS or Police Station.
- When an adult discloses abuse it is their choice whether to report. Don’t pressure them to report and allow them to lead the direction in which this will be handled. They have lost autonomy and are wanting to regain control. Let them decide what is best for them.
- Next Steps (“What would you find most helpful right now?”)
- Ask if you can check-in periodically, or if they would like to contact local professionals for support.
- Be there for them. The journey to healing can be lengthy and having someone who believes them and is in their corner can be very empowering.
- Take care of yourself. Caring for someone who has experienced domestic, intimate or sexual violence can be hard, so make sure you are also taking care of yourself. Reach out to local professionals if you need someone to talk to.