Domestic Violence in Canada
According to a 2016 study released by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly, 766,000 Canadian seniors suffered some form of abuse in 2015. It’s expected that reported incidents of elder abuse will continue to rise with the growing senior population — Statistics Canada data shows that seniors in Canada were more likely to be victims of domestic violence in 2017 than they were 10 years ago, and the rate of police-reported family violence against seniors rose 4% from 2016 to 2017 alone. The far-reaching impact of these rising rates of abuse will become more evident by 2031, when it’s expected that 23% of Canadians will be 65 or older, up from just 14.8% of the population in 2011.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is any action by a person in a trusted relationship that harms or causes distress to a senior. Abuse can be physical, psychological, or financial. Neglect is also a form of abuse.
Who commits elder abuse?
The sad reality is that elder abuse is inflicted mostly by family members or those in close relationships to the victims. Research shows that spouses or ex-spouses are most likely to inflict physical abuse at 34% of reported incidents, followed by children or grandchildren at 27%.
Spouses/ex-spouses are also the highest perpetrators of psychological abuse at 41% and neglect, accounting for 31% of incidents. Thirty-seven percent of financial abuse incidents are committed by adult children or grandchildren.
In 2017, Canadian police reported that nearly 11,500 seniors were victims of violent crime and of these reported crimes, one-third were committed by a family member.
The impact on victims
Many elder adults are reluctant to report abuse due to feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, fear or family loyalty. Many are dependent on their abusers for shelter, food or health-care and fear being put in a long-term facility if they speak out. Without an adequate support network, seniors who live in social isolation are more likely to suffer abuse. Abuse may lead to long-term physical and psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, an increased risk for heart attacks, high blood pressure and weight loss.
A 2012 Statistics Canada report on Family Violence in Canada shows that, as with most types of domestic violence, women are more likely to be the victims of elder abuse, with rates of reported violence 34% higher than senior men. This is largely explained by the prevalence of spousal abuse committed against senior women, which is double the rate experienced by senior men. Senior women are also more likely to be victimized by their children.
Abuse against women and children
Reports show that women in general are most often the victims of domestic violence. Statistics Canada reveals that of all the violent crimes reported in 2016, more than 26% resulted from family violence. Nearly 67% of those victims were women and girls.
According to a 2016 police report, 30% of crimes against children and youths are perpetrated by parents, siblings or other family members. A 2006 report released by UNICEF indicates that every year in Canada, an estimated 362,000 children witness or experience family violence.
Abused children are more likely to engage in abusive and violent relationships as adults, perpetuating the vicious cycle. Even if children are not the direct victims of abuse but are witness to violence in their homes, they can suffer from long-term emotional and psychological trauma like PTSD, depression, developmental delays and negative peer relationships. Witnessing family violence is considered child abuse in itself.
If you are being abused or suspect abuse against a loved one, there are a number of organizations that can help, including those found at the websites below.