Women in vulnerable demographics most at risk of domestic homicide, study finds

December 7, 2018

By Globe and Mail |

More than three quarters of Canada’s domestic homicide victims were women, according to a new report released Thursday that said belonging to some specific demographic groups elevates the risk of a violent death even more.

The report from the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative, a multi-year project studying domestic homicides with a focus on vulnerable groups, tracked data from across the country and analyzed relevant deaths between 2010 and 2015.

Of the 476 people slain in a domestic homicide during that time, the report found 76 per cent of them were women or girls.

The study focused particularly on four vulnerable groups — those of Indigenous heritage, immigrants and refugees, people living in remote or rural areas, and children. Taken together, people belonging to those four groups comprised 53 per cent of homicide victims killed during that time period, the report found.

Myrna Dawson, report co-author and University of Guelph professor of public policy and criminal justice, said the numbers should serve as a wakeup call to a society that may have been lulled into a false sense of security about the safety of women in general and vulnerable populations in particular.

“There is much talk about the need for improved resources for women and children experiencing violence, but I think sometimes that the general public feels that we have addressed this issue,” Dawson said.

“These numbers are a stark reminder that, while we may have tried to improve our responses to domestic homicide for which women are clearly the primary victims, our efforts have fallen short somewhere along the line, particularly for some groups.”

Some of those shortcomings emerge when looking at the vulnerable groups highlighted in the study, she said, adding anyone hoping to address gender-based violence needs to examine the unique challenges those populations face rather than trying to devise a one-size-fits-all solution.

The data on homicide victims in rural and remote areas, for instance, suggests a need to rethink government responses to firearms.

Domestic slayings in such communities accounted for 22 per cent or nearly a quarter of the homicides in the study, she said. Females were targeted in 78 per cent of those cases, the research found, but unlike in the rest of Canada where stabbings were the most common cause of death, killers in remote communities resorted to firearms most often.

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