Sexual Assault

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May 2017

Research and Statistics Division

This fact sheet is primarily based on self-reported data from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization,Footnote 1 on police-reported data from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey,Footnote 2 and on court data from the Adult Criminal Court Survey.

Self-reported rates of sexual assault have been stable in Canada over the past 15 years

The rate of self-reported sexual assault incidents per 1,000 population has remained relatively stable over the past 15 years from 1999 (21) to 2014 (22).

Victims are female, young and know their assailant

Sexual assault is a gendered crime; women are victimized at a higher rate (37 incidents per 1,000 women) than men (5EFootnote 3 per 1,000 men). As with other violent victimization, according to the 2014 GSS, young people aged 15-24 years have the highest rate of sexual assault (71 incidents per 1,000 population). This is more than double the next highest rate of 32E per 1,000 population for 25-34 year olds. Self-reported incidents of sexual assault were more likely than robberies and physical assaults to involve an offender who was known to the victim. In over half (52%) of sexual assault incidents, the perpetrator was a friend, acquaintance, or neighbour of the victim. Sexual assault accounted for 10% of the violent self-reported incidents in the 2014 GSS.

Majority of sexual assaults are not reported to police

According to the 2014 GSS, in that year, the majority (83%) of sexual assaults were not reported to police and only five percent of sexual assaults were reported.Footnote 4 In three studies completed by Justice Canada with survivors of sexual assault,Footnote 5 over two-thirds of those in the male sample (68%), and in the Northern sample (67%), and 64% in the female sample did not report the child sexual abuse/assaults to the police, nor did another individual report the abuse. The findings were similar for survivors of adult sexual abuse/assault. In the male sample, 70% stated that they did not report adult sexual abuse/assault, while 59% of those in the female sample and 56% of those in the Northern sample did not report it. In the Justice Canada studies, the most frequently reported reasons for not reporting child sexual abuse and/or adult sexual abuse were: the participants thought that they would not be believed, they felt ashamed or embarrassed, they did not know they could report the abuse, and they had no family support.

All of the participants in the Justice Canada studies, regardless of whether their cases did or did not go to trial, were asked to rate their level of confidence in the police, the court process, and the criminal justice system in general. Few participants stated that they were very confident. Indeed, approximately two-thirds of the participants stated that they were not confident in the police, the court process, or the criminal justice system in general. A higher percentage of participants in the male and female samples from the provinces stated that they were confident in the police in comparison to participants in the Northern sample.

Police-reported sexual assaults fluctuate, clearance rates are stable

In 2015, there were 21,362 incidents of sexual assault (levels 1, 2 and 3) reported by police and 98% of them were categorized as level 1. This represents a drop from 23,036 incidents in 2004. From 2004-2014, the number of incidents reported by police fluctuated slightly. However, from 2014 to 2015, the rate of police-reported level 1 sexual assaults increased 3% and the rate of level 2 sexual assaults increased 13%, while the rate of level 3 sexual assaults declined 11%.

In 2015, the total number of all sexual assaults reported to police that were cleared by charge was 9,191 or 43% of total incidents. This proportion has remained constant from 1998. In 2015, a higher proportion of sexual assault incidents, level 2 (57%) and level 3 (58%), were cleared by charge than level 1 incidents (43%). Footnote 6

Less than half of sexual assault cases in adult criminal court result in guilty verdictFootnote 7

For the 2014/2015 fiscal year, 43% of all sexual assault case decisions (levels 1, 2, and 3) in adult criminal court resulted in a finding of guilt. The percentage of sexual assault cases that resulted in a guilty decision has remained stable over the past 10 years. For the 2014/2015 fiscal year, 57% of accused found guilty of sexual assault (levels 1, 2, and 3) in adult court were ordered a custodial sentence and 18% were ordered probation as the most serious sentence.