Globe and Mail

Husbands also victims of spousal violence: Statscan

The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Almost as many men as women suffer violence at the hands of their spouses, but more often than not, wives are the victims of the most vicious assaults, says a Statistics Canada report.

Yesterday's report, which marks the first time Statscan has measured violence against husbands, has raised the ire of groups that fight violence against women. The groups are furious that Statscan would in any way equate the physical abuse perpetrated by men with the typically less savage attacks delivered by women.

According to the study, while 8 per cent of women surveyed in 1999 had endured beatings and other forms of abuse over the previous five years, 7 per cent of men reported being victims of a violent wife at least once in that time.

"This feeds into this incredible backlash that says women are just as violent as men, that men have the same problems and issues," said Vivien Green, co-ordinator of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto. "And I really think that totally irresponsible. It's criminal. It flies in the face of the reality of women's lives."

Assaults by women were nowhere nearly as severe or as frequent as injuries inflicted by men.

While violent women were prone to slapping or throwing things at their husbands, abusive men would choke, beat, threaten with a gun or knife, or sexually assault their spouses far more often.

One out of every four women in abusive relationships reported being beaten by their husbands or common-law partners at least once in the five years. When it comes to the damage done, about 15 per cent of women reported having to seek medical attention for their injuries, five times the number of men compelled to do so.

The report, the result of a telephone survey of 25,874 people last year, is Statscan's first stab at drawing a portrait of domestic violence in Canada since releasing its Violence Against Women Survey five years ago.

Controversy erupted after the release of that survey, with its finding that nearly one of every three Canadian women had suffered violence at the hands of a romantic partner over a lifetime. Critics said the statistic grossly inflated the problem of domestic violence by counting minor incidents as violence.

However contentious the first survey, the 10 questions on the new one match it closely. And what the survey defines as spousal violence -- any assault that could, if reported, be acted upon by police -- is the same.

While there are limitations to surveys that ask people to respond honestly to touchy questions about violence in their relationships, the Statcan researchers recorded a 95-per-cent response rate among the people asked to participate.

"We stand so firmly behind the Violence Against Women Survey that we replicated the methodology," said principal researcher Valerie Pottie Bunge. "We're confident in the data."

Because the questions are so similar, the researchers were able to conclude that domestic violence against women has dropped from the 12 per cent recorded in the last survey to 8 per cent. (The controversial one-in-three statistic was based on a woman's lifetime, rather than the five years previous.)

According to the report, 26 per cent of women who reported being assaulted were victims of more than 10 episodes of violence, double the percentage of men. In 37 per cent of cases, children witness the violence.

Young spouses face a higher risk of becoming victims of domestic violence, as do those wed to drinkers.

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