Understanding Family Violence and Sexual Assault in the Territories, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples
While an offender’s violence may be rooted, at least in part, in his own victimization, it is the victims of the current offences who hold the gravity and consequences of the current offence. The 1,474 cases of family violence and sexual assault included a total of 1,646 victims. This included 647 victims of sexual assault and 999 victims of family violence.
A large majority of the victims of sexual assault and family violence in all three territories were female: over 90% of sexual assault victims and over 85% of the victims of family violence.
The average age of the victims of sexual assault was much younger (approximately 19) than the average age of the accused (approximately 32). Where the ages of those accused of a sexual assault ranged from 13 to 85, the ages of the victims ranged from as young as one to as old as 86.
|Youngest age of victims of sexual assault||1||2||1|
|Oldest age of victims of sexual assault||76||86||47|
|Average age of victims of sexual assault||18||22||18|
|Median age of victims of sexual assault||16||18||15|
The average age of the victims of a family violence offence (29) was, again, somewhat younger than the average age of the accused (32). However, as in the cases of sexual assault, there was a substantial difference in the age ranges of the family violence victims in comparison to the accused. Ages of the accused of a family violence offence ranged from 16 to 75; ages of the victims ranged from as young as one to as old as 73.
|Youngest age victims of family violence||1||2||1|
|Oldest age of victims of family violence||70||55||73|
|Average age of victims of family violence||29||30||31|
|Median age of victims of family violence||28||29||31|
In the offences of family violence, the large majority of victims, as expected, were current spouses or partners (72%), with 4% previous spouse or partner and 7% dating at the time of the offence. Four percent of the victims were the accused’s child or step-child.
In sexual assault offences, victims, in descending order, were acquaintance (25%), friend (10%) , stranger (8%), niece or nephew (6%), step-child (4%), current spouse or partner (4%), grandchild (2%), sibling (2%), or neighbour (2%). Data for Canada overall indicate that strangers comprise 20% of sexual assault victims in comparison to the 8% in the territories. This difference is likely due to the small sizes of the communities in the north. The total population counts for communities in Nunavut, for example, typically range between 1,000 and 1,300 and are as small as 270.
Data were gathered on the extent of any injuries to the victims. Physical injury was defined as minor or major.
“Minor” injuries are those that required no professional medical treatment beyond first aid, such as scratches, bruises, cuts or abrasions.
“Major” physical injuries were defined as any injury that required professional medical attention on the scene or transportation to a hospital, for example for stitches, or broken bones. As indicated in Table 18, there is a fairly wide variation in the proportion of victims who sustained a minor or major injury. The majority of victims of family violence in the territories reported an injury, with 67% reporting a minor injury and 17% reporting a major one.
A lower percentage of victims of sexual assault reported an injury. Approximately one quarter (23%) of victims of sexual assault reported a physical or psychological injury, including 21% who reported a minor injury and 2% who reported a major one.
The majority of victims of both types of violent assaults completed a victim impact statement (VIS). This includes 76% of victims of a sexual assault and 88% of victims of family violence. In Nunavut, 85% of the victims of a sexual assault submitted a victim impact statement, followed by 62% in the Yukon and 61% in NWT. For family violence offences, Nunavut was again the highest where almost all, 95%, of the victims submitted a victim impact statement, followed by 87% in NWT and 82% in the Yukon.
Effects of the assaults included in the victim impact statements provide another measure of harm independent of injuries reported to the police or Crown Prosecutor at the time of the offence. In the majority of statements submitted, the most common harm to the victim was an inability to sleep, feelings of fear, disgust, shame, anger, loss of any sense of trust, an inability to go to the place where the assault occurred, including place of work, confusion, and recurring memories. These impacts reported by the victims of violent assault in the territories are similar to those reported in victimization surveys for Canada overall, where confusion, frustration and sleep problems were among the most common (AuCoin and Beauchamp 2007). Furthermore, several of the victims in the territories reported ideation of suicide. The young ages of many of the territorial victims of a sexual assault are reflected in the number who cited an inability to attend school because of confusion and recurring memories of the assault.
Following are excerpts from territorial victim impact statements that reflect recurring themes. They provide the experiences as written by the victims themselves.
The victims of family violence also report difficulty sleeping, confusion, fear, betrayal, loss of trust, and a loss of any sense of safety; they also write about fear for their children and their ability to keep them safe. Following are excerpts from the VISs of victims of a family violence assault as written by the victims.
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