Each year, I release a report on the state of public health in Canada. This year, I have chosen to focus on family violence in Canada.
Family violence is not just about physical abuse. It comes in many forms, including sexual, emotional and financial abuse, as well as neglect.
The statistics are staggering:
- In Canada, every day, just over 230 Canadians are reported as victims of family violence.
- In 2014, 57,835 girls and women were victims of family violence — accounting for seven out of every 10 reported cases. Every four days a woman is killed by a family member.
- Between 2004 and 2014, half of child victims of family-related homicide (160) were under the age of four.
- Population surveys tell us that a third of Canadians, that is nine million people, have reported experiencing abuse before they were 15 years old
- About 760,000 Canadians reported experiencing unhealthy spousal conflict, abuse or violence in the last five years.
- In 2014, indigenous people were murdered at a rate six times higher than non-indigenous Canadians, with indigenous women being three times more likely to report spousal abuse than non-Indigenous women.
- Every day, eight seniors are victims of family violence.
This is a serious public health issue in Canada — one that can have long-lasting and widespread effects on the health of individuals, families and communities. The health impacts of family violence extend far beyond physical injuries and include poor mental health, psychological and emotional distress, suicide, and increased risk of chronic diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
We know that for a variety of reasons, family violence is under-reported. Some victims are not aware that what they are experiencing is family violence, or they may be too afraid or humiliated to speak to someone. We don’t yet know enough about what makes some families violent and not others, or effective methods to prevent family violence.
Healthy families are the backbone of a prosperous society. With this in mind, I invite all Canadians to join me in addressing the fear and stigma that keep us from understanding and ultimately preventing family violence.
We need to talk about it.
Dr. Gregory Taylor
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada