Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2002

"Spousal murder rates at 26-year low; highest rates in West, lowest in Nfld."

Canadian Press

OTTAWA (CP) -- Spousal murder rates dropped to a 26-year low in 2000 but women were still victims in the overwhelming majority of cases, with Northern and Western Canada recording the most wife murders and Newfoundland and Labrador showing the least, a government report revealed Wednesday.

In 2000, 67 Canadians were killed by their spouse or former spouse.

The number of women killed by their husbands dropped 65 per cent nationwide to 6.3 per million couples from 16.5 per million couples in 1974, the Statistics Canada report found.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the rate was just 4.1 per million couples, while the rate was 77.8 in the Northwest Territories, 47.3 in the Yukon and 16.1 in Manitoba.

The homicide rate for men killed by their wives fell by more than 50 per cent to two per million, the report said.

Shootings and stabbings were the most common causes of death.

The decline in spousal murder rates may be partly due to the fact that men and women are marrying older, the report said.

"As the proportion of young people getting married has declined, exposure to violence in the highest-risk age groups may be reduced," the report says.

"Furthermore, the increase in the age of first marriage may reflect greater selectivity among would-be spouses."

In 1974, the average Canadian woman was 22 when she got married; the average man was 24. By 2000, the ages had risen to 28 and 30 respectively.

Other factors that may have contributed to the decline in spousal violence are women's increased participation in the workforce, delaying childbirth and having fewer children.

"All of these social changes have provided both women and men with increased opportunities for economic independence which may help provide alternatives to remaining in abusive situations which, in turn, may help avoid escalation of violence to homicide," the report said.

Three per cent of women and two per cent of men experienced at least one incident of spousal violence with a current or ex-spouse during a 12-month period, the study said.

Although men reported being victims of spousal violence, figures indicate the nature of the violence was more severe for women, Statistics Canada said.

Women in violent unions were more than twice as likely as men to report having been beaten, the agency reported.

Female victims were five times more likely to have been medically treated or hospitalized as a result of the violence.

The lower reporting rates by men may reflect the less severe nature of the violence, Statistics Canada said. It may also be that social services for male victims are not as widely available.

The most commonly reported emotional consequence for both men and women victims of spousal violence was being upset, confused and frustrated.

Since 1974, almost 2,600 spousal homicides have been recorded in Canada.

© Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press