Researching Violence against Women: Statistics Canada's National Survey

Article excerpt

Ce numero special de la Revue est consacre a l'analyse de l'Enquete nationale de Canada sur la uiolence envers les femmes. A la demande du ministere federal de la Sante, Statistique Canada a entrepris cette enquete speciale en 1993. La methode qui a ete utilisee correspond a celle qui sert habituellement a effectuer les enquetes aupres de victimes d'actes criminels et a pris la forme d'interviews par telephone et d'interviews assistees par ordinateur. Un enchantillon de 12,300 femmes agees de 18 ans et plus ont ete interrogees au sujet des agressions sexuelles et physiques qu'elles ont subies depuis l'age de 16 ans. Cette enquete differe des enquetes aupres des victimes d'actes criminels de par sa conception et sa portee. On y trouve. par exemple, les agressions sexuelles qui ne sont pas definies dans le Code criminel, mais qui sont un facteur de la sensibilisation des femmes et de leur perception de leur vulnerabilite, afin d'avoir un apercu plus global des peurs eprouvees par les femmes. L'enquete comprend des details sur les circonstances, les signes avant-coureurs et la dynamique des actes violents. En effet, ces ddtails snit necessaires pour verifier les theories relatives a l'etiologie des agressions contre les femmes. Le present article examine les considerations ethiques liees aux recherches par voie d'enquete sur ce sujet, les concepts utilises dans le cadre de la presente enquete pour mesurer la violence sexuelle et physique, et certaines conclusions generales sur la prevalence de la uiolence. le harcelement sexuel et les comportements directifs et offensants de la part des conjoints. Il se termine par un apercu sommaire de ce numero special.

Through the efforts of the women's movement, front-line workers, and many members of the academic community, the issues of sexual violence and wife battering have been brought to the forefront of public attention. Now, two decades after the first shelters for battered women opened, these issues are firmly entrenched on the agendas of governments and researchers across North America. As the commitment toward the issue has grown, so has public money for shelters and other services for women, education and training programs for police and other helping professionals, counselling programs for violent men, and research of all kinds. Between 1988 and 1995, the federal government devoted a total of $176 million to special initiatives on family violence. Provincial and municipal governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations have all dedicated time and resources to awareness-raising campaigns, public education, and services for abused women and their partners.

Along with this increased activity has come a need for in depth information about the parameters of the problem, and for a more informed discussion about correlates and consequences. Early on, anecdotal evidence of women's experiences suggested that all kinds of violence against women were much more frequent than commonly believed. Significant increases in the numbers of women coming forward seeking help established the need for crisis centres and shelters. Statistical evidence describing the dimensions of the issue gradually became available from a variety of helping agencies, including crisis centres, police, and hospitals. Data from these sources suffered from obvious limitations and researchers recognized that, because the majority of these crimes never come to the attention of data gatherers, "official" statistics must surely undercount the true extent of sexual assault and wife battering.

Crime victim surveys are conducted at regular intervals in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain. They are designed to complement police statistics and to capture those incidents that are never reported to the police. They also suggest that the incidence of violence against women is low relative to men's experiences, thereby suggesting a disparity between women's experiences and their high levels of fear. …