An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009

5. Third-Party Costs

Crime affects the victim most seriously, but children and other family members, neighbours and friends, employers, government, and the general public are also affected to varying degrees. In particular, children exposed to spousal violence have an increased risk of committing acts of property damage, developing mental health issues, and not reaching their full earning potential (Dauvergne and Johnson 2001). While children may also be further victimized through physical or emotional abuse perpetrated directly against themselves by a parent, such incidents are not considered in this report. The economic impact of spousal violence on third parties is summarized below in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1: Third-Party Costs
  Violence against females Violence against males Total
Funeral Expenses $1,023,432 $425,808 $1,449,240
Loss of Affection and Enjoyment to Family Members $26,267,706 $10,902,294 $37,170,000
Costs to Other Persons Harmed/Threatened $9,047,144 $2,198,976 $11,246,120
Health care $1,413,201 $109,013 $1,522,214
Productivity losses $7,633,943 $2,089,963 $9,723,906
Social Service Operating Costs $353,039,335 $57,556,464 $410,595,799
Shelters and transition homes $285,420,000 $0 $285,420,000
Crisis lines $601,854 $9,163 $611,017
Support centers $62,855,527 $57,427,718 $120,283,245
Victim services $4,161,954 $119,583 $4,281,537
Losses to Employers $52,123,343 $25,795,217 $77,918,560
Lost output $6,194,356 $1,776,450 $7,970,806
Tardiness and distraction $44,858,528 $23,682,887 $68,541,415
Administration costs $1,070,459 $335,880 $1,406,339
Negative Impact on Children Exposed to SV $153,241,598 $82,000,292 $235,241,890
Medical costs $741,415 $396,906 $1,138,321
Missed school days $901,057 $482,343 $1,383,400
Lost future income $148,447,357 $79,433,843 $227,881,200
Delinquent acts against property $3,151,769 $1,687,200 $4,838,969
Other Government Expenditures $96,270,249 $19,989,751 $116,260,000
Other federal expenditures $7,620,897 $1,409,790 $9,030,687
Other provincial/territorial expenditures $88,649,352 $18,579,961 $107,229,313
Third-Party Costs $691,012,807 $198,868,802 $889,881,609

Note: May not add to stated totals due to rounding.

5.1 Funeral Expenses

In the section on Loss of Life, it is estimated that 137 women, 57 men, and one person of unknown gender died as a result of spousal violence in 2009.Footnote 53 According to the Ontario Board of Funeral Services, the average funeral cost in 2009 was $7,432.Footnote 54 Multiplying the number of lives lost due to spousal violence by the average funeral cost, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 through funeral expenses is estimated at $1,449,240.

Funeral expenses – SV against females $1,023,432
Funeral expenses – SV against males $425,808
Total Funeral Expenses $1,449,240

5.2 Loss of Affection and Enjoyment to Family Members

The death of a family member or loved one can have a significant emotional impact on a person, and when the death is surrounded by traumatic events, as with spousal violence, the emotional impact may be magnified. A grieving person may develop depression, anxiety, sleeping problems, and a range of other mental health issues due to the loss (Lichtenthal et al. 2004; Biondi and Picardi 1996).Footnote 55 Although it is impossible to truly estimate a value for the suffering of grieving family members of victims of fatal spousal violence, analyzing court awards can provide useable information for subsequent estimates.

Relevant court awards information is available from several jurisdictions, though the legislation is not specific to spousal violence. Alberta's Fatal Accidents Act requires courts to award damages for grief and the loss of care, guidance, and companionship in the amount of $75,000 to the spouse or adult partner of the deceased person, $75,000 to the parents of the deceased person, and $45,000 to each minor or unmarried/un-partnered child of the deceased person.Footnote 56Saskatchewan's Fatal Accidents Act also allows for recovery of bereavement damages; the damages for loss of companionship or grief are capped at $60,000 for a spouse and $30,000 for each child of the deceased.

Unlike Alberta and Saskatchewan, Ontario has no legislation to govern recovery for grief. Awards for the loss of companionship, care, and guidance in Ontario are at the discretion of the Ontario court and are subject to a reasonableness requirement. One particular case in the Ontario courts, analysed in Garrow and Ayre (2009), involved the jury awarding general damages of $45,000 to the son of the deceased, $100,000 to the daughter of the deceased and $373,000 to the wife of the deceased, but the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that these awards could not stand as “it is well established that losses of that character are not compensable as a matter of law.” In the end, the court substituted the following awards for general damages: $20,000 to the deceased's son, $35,000 to the deceased's daughter, and $75,000 to the deceased's wife.

A collective assessment of the court awards information leads to the use of Alberta's legislation as the basis for value of lost enjoyment and affection due to loss of family members in this report. Therefore, for the purpose of this report, the value of lost enjoyment and affection to parents of victims who died as a result of spousal violence is $75,000 and the value to children of the victims is $45,000.

As previously estimated, there were 137 women, 57 men, and one person of unknown gender who died as a result of spousal violence in 2009.Footnote 57 The impact on the parents and children of the victims who died are considered, but the impact on the perpetrating spouses is not included. It is assumed that every victim has two living parents, and the number of children per victim is estimated from Statistics Canada data. According to Statistics Canada, there were 8,459,058 couples (both those with children and those without children) and 7,638,710 children of couples in 2009, which implies that there were 0.9 children per couple (both those with children and those without children) in 2009.Footnote 58

The number of victims who died as a result of spousal violence is multiplied by both the appropriatevalue of the lost affection and enjoyment and the number of family members of the appropriate type. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on the family members of victims who lost their lives is estimated at $37,170,000.

Loss of affection/enjoyment to family members – SV against females $26,267,706
Loss of affection/enjoyment to family members – SV against males $10,902,294
Total Loss of Affection and Enjoyment to Family Members $37,170,000

5.3 Costs to Other Persons Harmed During the Incidents

Witnesses of violent crime may attempt to intervene on behalf of the victim and may suffer physical or emotional impacts as a result. The GSS provides data on people who were harmed in spousal violence incidents other than the victim and the perpetrator.

5.3.1 Health care

The GSS finds that 48,871 persons who were neither victims nor perpetrators were harmed or threatened during spousal violence incidents in 2009. As the GSS respondents were not asked questions regarding the health care required by witnesses who were harmed or threatened, it is assumed that witnesses had the same probability of seeking medical attention from a physician or at an emergency department following the incident as victims. Due to data limitations, acute hospitalization is not examined, yielding a more conservative estimate.

After calculating the probabilities of victims requiring the two types of health care from the GSS, it is then estimated that 851 individuals received medical attention from a physician and 2,398 individuals visited an emergency department for injuries incurred while witnessing spousal violence. The total health care costs can be calculated by applying $55 for the average cost of a physician visit (as calculated in the section on Victim Costs, Physician Visits), $266 for the average cost of an emergency department visit, and $590 for the average cost of ambulance transportation, along with the 60% and 50% rates of ambulance use for females and males respectively. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 through health care costs for other people harmed is estimated at $1,522,214.

Health care costs of other persons harmed – SV against females $1,413,201
Health care costs of other persons harmed – SV against males $109,013
Total Costs to Other Persons Harmed, Health Care $1,522,214

5.3.2 Productivity losses

As with victims, other people harmed during incidents of spousal violence may be unable to work or attend school, resulting in productivity losses. Data relating to the productivity losses of people harmed during spousal violence incidents other than the victim or offender is not available. As such, certain assumptions are made: first, we use the value of household work as the base wage for missed work, acknowledging that this will likely yield a conservative estimate; second, we assume that these individuals were unable to perform daily activities for a length of three days.

Among the 48,871 other individuals harmed or threatened during incidents of spousal violence, as found in the GSS, 27,704 were aged 15 or over. The hourly wage of household workers in 2009 was $15.60 (see Lost Household Services section). The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 through productivity losses to other people harmed is estimated at $9,723,906.

Productivity losses to other persons harmed – SV against females $7,633,943
Productivity losses to other persons harmed – SV against males $2,089,963
Total Costs to Other Persons Harmed, Productivity Losses $9,723,906

5.4 Social Services Operating Costs

A variety of resources are available to victims of spousal violence in Canada. Shelters and transition homes provide safe accommodations to victims fleeing violence, victim counselling provides emotional support, and community centres offer temporary assistance to victims and their families. Programs and services are funded by both government and non-government contributions.

5.4.1 Shelters and transition homes

Statistics Canada's Transition Home Survey (THS) collects information on shelters and transition homes in Canada biennially. The type of shelter, number of beds, number of admissions, and reasons for stay are recorded every cycle, while operating cost data are collected every second cycle. The 2009/2010 cycle estimates the total operating costs of the 593 shelters across Canada in 2009 to be $402 million. All expenditures are assumed to be used for assisting female clients only, though there are services available for men who require emergency shelter. Men fleeing violent situations may be placed in a hotel or may be able to stay in a homeless shelter, some of which are accessible only to men. The costs of these services are not available as the proportion of these men seeking shelter due to spousal violence is unknown, as are the total expenditures of these services; because of these limitations, no estimate will be conducted for male victims in this section.

In addition to expenditure information, the 2009/2010THSalso took a snapshot of the transition home clients on April 15, 2010. The snapshot shows that 71% (3,298) of the 4,645 female residents reported abuse as the main reason for seeking refuge. The GSS reveals that the desire to protect their children from suffering abuse or exposure to abuse was another leading motivation for females seeking shelter and theTHSsnapshot corroborates this with the finding that 74% of female clients with parental responsibilities also brought their children into the shelter.

Following the results from the 2009/2010THSsnapshot, it is assumed that 71% of women admitted to shelters or transition homes in 2009 were fleeing situations involving spousal violence and therefore that 71% of expenditures were allocated to spousal violence victims. Multiplying the proportion of expenditures allocated to spousal violence victims by the total operating costs of transition homes, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on shelters and transition homes is estimated at $285,420,000.

Operating costs of shelters – SV against females $285,420,000
Operating costs of shelters – SV against males $0
Total Social Services Operating Costs, Shelters $285,420,000

5.4.2 Crisis lines

The GSS finds that 15,046 female victims of spousal violence and 229 male victims contacted crisis lines in 2009. The average length of call is estimated at 24 minutes.Footnote 59 Since all calls made to crisis lines are anonymous, the number of follow-up calls per client is unknown. However, qualitative evidence from crisis line workers suggests that victims make, on average, five calls to a crisis line. The total length of calls by each victim utilizing crisis line services is therefore estimated at two hours. Various job postings for crisis line positions suggest that the average operating cost of a crisis line in 2009 was $20 per hour, where salaries were the main cost component.Footnote 60 Although many crisis line workers are volunteers, the $20 per hour rate is used as a proxy for the opportunity costs of the volunteers who may otherwise be working for pay and for the supervision of the volunteers or paid workers. Multiplying the number of victims contacting crisis lines by the total length of calls per victim and the crisis line operating costs per hour, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on crisis lines is estimated at $611,017.

Operating costs of crisis lines – SV against females $601,854
Operating costs of crisis lines – SV against males $9,163
Total Social Services Operating Costs, Crisis Lines $611,017

5.4.3. Support centres

According to the GSS, 139,679 female victims and 127,617 male victims sought help from a support centre (a broad category of social services that includes women's centres, men's centres, community centres, and family centres) in 2009 as a result of spousal violence. The average length of use of the centres and the associated operating costs are unknown; therefore, assumptions of these measures are necessary. It is assumed that each client visited a centre multiple times, with total use lasting on average 15 hours per client, and that the operating cost per hour was $30. The final estimate is obtained by multiplying the number of victims who used support centres by the average length of visit and the support centre operating costs per hour. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on support centres is estimated at $120,283,245.

Operating costs of support centres – SV against females $62,855,527
Operating costs of support centres – SV against males $57,427,718
Total Social Services Operating Costs, Support Centres $120,283,245

5.4.4 Victim services

Victim services provide information, counselling, and other assistance to victims of crime and abuse. Funding for victim services comes from a variety of sources, including the federal government's Victims Fund, provincial and territorial general revenues, provincial, territorial, and federal surcharges, and other sources such as private fundraising.

The GSS records that victim services were used by 9,184 female victims of spousal violence and 264 male victims in 2009. Based on information from the Victim Services Survey (Sauvé 2008), the cost of victim services per client in 2009 is estimated at $453. Multiplying the number of persons who used victim services by the service operating costs per victim, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on victim services is estimated at $4,281,537.

Victim compensation programs typically exist at victim services locations, but the costs of victim compensation programs are not included in this section's estimate as compensation programs normally cover damaged and stolen property, lost wages, and pain and suffering, all of which are captured elsewhere in this report. Compensation programs are important as they do attempt to shift the impact from the victim to the state, and this aspect is examined further in Section 6 where the burden by who actually pays is analysed.

Operating costs of victim services – SV against females $4,161,954
Operating costs of victim services – SV against males $119,583
Total Social Services Operating Costs, Victim Services $4,281,537

5.5 Losses to Employers

Employees who are in abusive relationships may display the adverse effects of the abuse in the workplace, with tardiness, distraction, and absence all contributing to decreased productivity. Employers therefore face economic losses when their employees experience spousal violence. Swanberg et al. (2005) find that 71% of female victims of spousal violence who were employed reported having difficulty concentrating in the workplace because of the spousal violence, while 63% did not work at their optimal level in the year following the spousal violence. Decreased productivity at work is one possible outcome for victims, but when victims cannot attend work at all, managers and administrators must complete the necessary administration for rearranging workloads among remaining staff or the organization will face even greater output losses (Health and Safety Executive 1999).

In the event of the victim resigning or being dismissed, employers face recruitment and retraining costs, but such data for spousal violence cases do not exist and so these costs are not included in the estimate. Therefore, only three types of costs comprise the losses to employers: lost output from victims' absences, lost productivity due to tardiness and distraction, and administration costs for victims' absences.

5.5.1 Lost output

As labour, an employee is one of the inputs used in the production of a firm's output. The wages paid to an employee can be considered the cost of, or investment in, this input. It is assumed in this study that every employer, whether public or private, makes an efficient investment decision, and that every investment is expected to generate a positive return. Following Boardman et al. (2008), the marginal return rate on investment in employee labour is assumed to be 5.2%; this means that if an employer invests $100 in an employee (through wages), the employer will gain $105.20 in output, for a net gain of $5.20. Conversely, a disinvestment of $100, brought about by an employee's absence from work, will bring an employer a net loss of $5.20.

Lost victim wages due to both physical injuries and mental health issues are calculated in Section 4, Victim Costs, Work Loss (due to mental health issue) and Lost Wages (due to physical injuries). Adding the lost wages from both sources, the total lost wages are estimated at $119,122,230 for female victims and $21,434,414 for male victims. This disinvestment will cause a net output loss of 5.2% to employers. Multiplying the amount of lost wages by the 5.2% rate of return results in a lost net output of $6,194,356 for female victims and $1,776,450 for male victims. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on the output of employers is estimated at $7,970,806.

Lost output – SV against females $6,194,356
Lost output – SV against males $1,776,450
Total Losses to Employers, Lost Output $7,970,806

5.5.2 Tardiness and distraction

Reeves and O'Leary-Kelly (2007)examine the tardiness and distraction of both employed intimate partner violence (IPV) victims and employed non-victims in a southern American city. By comparing the tardiness and distraction costs between the two groups the cost of tardiness and distraction attributable to spousal violence can be determined.

Given the average lost productivity and annual income in Reeves and O'Leary-Kelly (2007), the percentage of income counted as lost productivity was 12.3% for female victims, 10.2% for male victims, 8.4% for female non-victims, and 8.4% for male non-victims. This implies that the percentage of income counted as lost productivity due to spousal violence was 3.9% for female victims and 2.2% for male victims. Applying this to the average incomes of Canadian victims, the monthly loss to employers due to tardiness and distraction caused by spousal violence is $137.64 and $125.69 for females and males respectively.

The GSS is used to determine the number of victims that exhibited tardiness and distraction because of spousal violence. GSS respondents are screened for employment status and how they were affected by the incidents. Respondents who were employed and considered to have been significantly affected are separated into three groups in this study: victims suffering one incident in the last 12 months are assumed to exhibit one month of tardiness and distraction; victims suffering two incidents are assumed to exhibit two months of tardiness and distraction; and victims suffering three or more incidents are assumed to exhibit six months of tardiness and distraction.

According to the GSS, 95,268 female victims and 65,898 male victims were employed and emotionally affected in some way by the incidents. Among these victims, 62,701 had suffered one incident in the previous 12 months, 35,239 victims had suffered two incidents, and 63,526 victims had suffered three or more incidents. To obtain the total lost productivity from tardiness and distraction, the monthly cost to employers is multiplied by the number of months each group of victims exhibited tardiness and distraction and the number of victims in each group. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on employers due to tardiness and distraction is estimated at $68,541,415.

Tardiness and distraction – SV against females $44,858,528
Tardiness and distraction – SV against males $23,682,887
Total Losses to Employers, Tardiness and Distraction $68,541,415

5.5.3 Administration costs

Managers and administrators must re-arrange workloads and complete other administrative tasks when employees are absent from work. The Health and Safety Executive (1999), a UK organization, assumes that administrators lose 0.5 hours of productivity because of employee absenteeism. For the purposes of this report only 0.25 hours of lost productivity, split evenly between managers and administrators, is assumed in order to ensure a conservative estimate. The hourly wage of managers and administrators is multiplied by the time that each spends on administrative tasks for employee absenteeism. Following this, the resulting administration cost per victim for 2009 is estimated at $7.40 for each absence. It is calculated in Section 4, Lost Wages,that female victims missed 145,147 days of work and male victims missed 45,543 days of work as a direct result of spousal violence. The number of days missed is multiplied by the cost per absence to obtain the final estimate. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on employers through administration costs is estimated at $1,406,339.

Administration costs for work absences – SV against females $1,070,459
Administration costs for work absences – SV against males $335,880
Total Losses to Employers, Administration Costs $1,406,339
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