1 in 4 Canadians have tried to help a friend leave an abusive partner
(Written by Canadian Women's Foundation) Toronto, ON – A new study from the Canadian Women’s Foundation reveals that 1 in 4 Canadians have tried to help a friend leave an abusive partner. Violence against women is prevalent in Canadian society, with women at higher risk of violent victimization by someone they know, like an intimate partner.
According to the survey, Canadians are most likely to turn to a friend first to report situations of verbal abuse (20 per cent) and emotional abuse (22 per cent). However, a relatively equal amount of respondents expect to resolve verbal and emotional abuse without outside help (28 per cent vs. 21 per cent, respectively), and a full 10 per cent would expect to resolve physical or sexual abuse on their own.
“The fact that a quarter of Canadians have tried to help a friend leave an abusive partner underscores the prevalence of violence in this country,” says Anuradha Dugal, Director of Violence Prevention, Canadian Women’s Foundation. “Abusive situations can foster feelings of self-doubt, self-blame and humiliation, but attempting to resolve it alone can pose a great threat to the safety and well-being of the victim.”
Although Canadians are likely to report abuse to their friends, 13 per cent of respondents do not have confidence that their friends would believe them. Canadians also worry that their family (16 per cent), doctors (15 per cent) and police or other authorities (28 per cent) would not take their reports seriously.
“It’s alarming that so many Canadians are worried that their friends/family, doctors and even the police, would not believe them if they disclosed abuse. Living in a culture where speaking out about abuse is still taboo and where many blame the victim leads to many women believing that the abuse is their fault. Women are therefore less likely to come forward to report the assault or to seek assistance to escape the abuse,” explains Ms. Dugal.
Other findings in the study revealed:
- The majority of Canadians would first report physical abuse (55 per cent) and sexual abuse (56 per cent) to the police or other authorities
- Close to half (43 per cent) of respondents are not confident that their HR department at work would believe them if they reported abuse
- Almost one-third (31 per cent) of Canadians say that the financial toll that the legal process would take on their friends and family would be likely to prevent them reporting an abusive situation
- A further third (31 per cent) of Canadians say having their story exposed to the public, friends and family members would likely prevent them from reporting abuse
The Canadian Women’s Foundation’s 10th Annual Campaign to End Violence against Women, ending May 11, raises awareness and funds for women who have experienced abuse. The funds raised help more than 445 shelters for abused women and their children and community violence prevention programs across Canada that break the cycle of violence.
If you know a woman in an abusive situation, the Canadian Women’s Foundation offers the following ways that you can help:
1. Be supportive The most important thing you can do is listen and offer your nonjudgmental support. Tell them the violence is not their fault, and that they deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what. Let them know you do not blame them. If they decide to stay, do not judge them. The most valuable things you can offer a woman who is being abused are respect, taking her seriously and linking her to where she can get help.
2. Learn more about relationship violence Recognize the warning signs of abuse and understand why many don’t press charges against their abusers.
3. Be aware of the risks Be careful about how you communicate with the victim, since many abusers closely monitor their victims (where they go, who they see, phone calls, email, Facebook etc.)
4. Ensure your own safety Never confront an abuser or do anything that puts you in danger or feels unsafe. Take care of yourself by talking through your feelings about the issue with a supportive, knowledgeable friend or professional.
5. Find resources Before speaking to a victim, get the phone number of your local shelter, crisis line, YWCA, or agency offering specialized services for victims of abuse. This way you can provide specific information, if and when they are ready.
6. Choose the right time and place Be thoughtful about where and when to discuss your concerns. Choose a place where you will not be overheard or interrupted, and where they will have privacy. Don’t choose a time when you feel unprepared, or when they seem distracted or are in a hurry.
7. Voice your concerns Be sensitive. Don’t give details about what you have witnessed, as she may feel the need to give excuses or deny what happened. Explain why you want to support her and tell her you’re ready to listen whenever she is.
8. Put them in charge Don’t expect to know all the answers. Explore options with them. Don’t try to take over or tell them what to do. Tell them: “I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.” Ask direct, simple questions such as: “Do you want me to help you find someone to talk to?” or “Do you want to go somewhere safe?” If they aren’t sure what to do, simply encourage them to talk, and listen without judgment.
To learn more about violence against women, read the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s fact sheet.
*Methodology: From March 21st to March 22nd 2014 an online survey was conducted among 1,009 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.