Globe and Mail

Men as likely to face abuse from partner, Statscan says

Women suffer more severe consequences, more likely to seek medical attention

By KRISTA FOSS
Thursday, June 27, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A8
The Globe and Mail

In the pressure cooker of domestic relationships, men and women are almost equally likely to boil over and lash out violently at their spouses, according to a newly released Statistics Canada report.

In the fifth annual look at family violence in Canada, based on a survey on victimization and more recent police statistics, 8 per cent of women and 7 per cent of men reported experiencing at least one incident of spousal violence from their current or former partners between the years 1994 and 1995.

However, the study also concludes that women report suffering much more severe consequences from domestic battles that end with blows. Women were twice as likely as men to report having been beaten, five times as likely to say they'd been choked by their partners and five times as likely to have received medical attention as a result of the violence.

The report says that the definition can have an effect on the estimates of violence and can include Criminal Code offences, threatening, psychologically controlling and emotionally abusive behaviour.

Women were also more likely than men to report spousal violence to the police, use a social service, require medication, take time off work or suffer depression, fearfulness and sleeplessness. The study also notes that when it comes to spousal homicide, women are the victims in the vast majority of cases.

Still some men's groups laud the Statscan findings because they don't support the old prejudice that men are the only ones who become physically violent behind the closed doors of the family home.

"It demonstrates that there has been a severe bias against men in the past in not considering them victims," said Earl Silverman, program co-ordinator for the Calgary-based advocacy group, Family of Men Support Society. ". . . To try and deny the other side of the coin reduces the credibility of the first side."

Mr. Silverman said that so much attention has been paid to providing social supports to female victims of domestic violence that men who are abused have nowhere to turn.

Academics who have spent their careers researching the subject of domestic violence, think otherwise: They question the research's rigour and its lack of context.

Desmond Ellis, a York University sociology professor, finds the Statscan conclusions inconsistent with his research or with that done by his colleagues at the LaMarsh Research Centre on Violence and Conflict Resolution.

"Ignoring context, meaning and motive [in violent incidents] is misinforming," he said yesterday. "And not separating out different types of violence is misleading."

Prof. Ellis said there is a big difference between violence used to control a spouse -- which he says research shows is more likely committed by males -- and violence that occurs in trying to end or settle a conflict.

"Control-motivated violence has implications for what happens when you separate from a spouse" he said. "And the consequences for women when they separate, are in our view, more serious."

If the Statscan study sounded a positive note, it was that the overall rate of family homicides has gone down in Canada since 1974. The homicide rate for women has decreased 62 per cent -- to 6.3 women per million couples from 16.5 women -- while for men it has dropped by 55 per cent, to two men per million couples from 4.4 men.

The report also shows that separated women aged 15 to 24 had a rate of spousal homicide far higher than the average: 113 per million separated couples in the years 1991 to 2000.

SPOUSAL VIOLENCE

Women victims of spousal abuse are more likely than men to experience sleeping problems and to use medication or drugs.

...........................Female victims........Female non-victims

Trouble falling asleep

or remaining asleep............39%.....................20%

Medication/drugs to sleep.......20%.....................10%

Medication /drugs to calm

down...........................19%......................6%

Medication/drugs to get out

of depression..................17%......................5%

............................Male victims........Male non-victims

Trouble falling asleep

or remaining asleep............29%.....................13%

Medication/drugs to sleep........9%......................7%

Medication /drugs to calm

down............................8%......................4%

Medication/drugs to get out

of depression...................7%......................3%

Copyright © 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.