As most people know, women’s rights have been a major focus of mine, particularly the continued prevalence of violence against women (VAW). This kind of assault on humanity takes many forms, which I would like to bring to public attention and begin a dialogue on over the next few months.

The United Nations (1993) defines violence against women as:

any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

However, because of more narrow criminal definitions in Canada, reports on violence against women fall significantly short of capturing the true extent of this issue. For example, Statistics Canada’s (2013) most recent publication on violence against women focused on incidents of violent crimes against women, finding only 1% of women over the age of 15 had experienced violence. Although Statistics Canada includes the General Social Survey data to measure self reported of violence, this survey also only measures criminal violence.

A 1993 Statistics Canada survey, however, asked women about violence outside of the criminal context and found approximately 50% of women experienced at least one incidence of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. This 1993 Survey provides the most recent data on self reporting outside of criminal violence, best reflecting the United Nation’s definition of violence against women. The estimated annual costs of direct expenditures related to violence against women in Canada are nearly $1.2 billion Canadian for the criminal justice system, police, counselling and training. On the world stage, up to 70% of women are reported to experience violence in their lifetime (United Nations Secretary-General, 2011).

Ultimately, the impacts of violence against women are felt across the world on a personal, familial, and societal level, as women face longer lasting victimization, fear of bodily injury, time lost from work, injuries, and use of medical, mental health, and justice system services.

From now until the fall, I will be writing on the following topics that have been identified as some contributing factors or instances in which violence against women is prevalent in Canada and throughout the world:

  • Patriarchal practices
  • Sex trade
  • Systemic racism
  • Mental health & addictions
  • Poverty
  • Legal issues

Although this is a topic that can never be discussed to completion until all violence against women ends, I look forward to bringing more awareness to these issues and hope we can come together to support awareness and lasting change in our own lives as well as lives across the world.