Two-thirds of people in Canada know a woman who has been abused

A new poll from the Canadian Women’s Foundation reveals that two-thirds of people in Canada (65 per cent) know a woman who has faced emotional, physical, or sexual assault.

Abuse awareness varies by gender. 69 per cent of women know a woman who has faced assault, compared to 61 per cent of men.

“This data tells us that women carry a greater load of abuse awareness,” says Paulette Senior, President and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “Abuse survivors may feel more comfortable to disclose to women. It’s also likely that women, girls, and Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people are more attuned to abuse risks as they personally deal with it daily.”

Rates of gender-based violence in Canada are alarmingly high: 44 per cent of women face abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Women are five times more likely than men to be sexually assaulted and more likely to be sexually harassed at work. Abuse rates are higher for Indigenous, Black, and racialized women, women with disabilities, 2SLGBTQIA+ people, and others who are marginalized. Femicide has also spiked: a woman or girl is killed by violence every 48 hours.

At the same time, the new research shows that 64 per cent of people in Canada feel confident in knowing what to do and say to support someone experiencing abuse – a rate that has remained steady since 2021.

Today, as before, only one in five people say they are “very confident” in supporting someone who has been physically assaulted. Amongst 18- to 34-year-olds, confidence levels have dipped since 2021, a worrisome trend given higher risk of victimization amongst younger women.

Digital gendered hate and abuse is also a concern in our increasingly virtual lives. Statistics Canada data shows one in five women experience online harassment. Young women, 2SLGBTQIA+ people, and Black women are amongst those highly targeted. This reality makes digital spaces unwelcoming at large. Almost one-third of people in Canada are hesitant about using social media or taking part in online discussions due to harassment concerns.

The new polling data shows that women (84 per cent) and 2SLGBTQIA+ people (87 per cent) take more actions to feel safe from online hate and abuse compared to men (77 per cent). Still, only 18 per cent of women, 10 per cent of 2SLGBTQIA+ people, and 23 per cent of men strongly agree that they feel safe online.

Eighty-eight per cent of people in Canada believe we need to make changes so online spaces are safer for everyone—58 per cent of women strongly agree with this idea. Likewise, 88 per cent believe it is the responsibility of social media companies to keep users safe from hate and abuse on their platforms.

“People understand that digital safety is not a personal responsibility alone,” says Andrea Gunraj, VP of Public Engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation and host of its Alright, Now What? podcast. With approximately 4,000 listeners per episode, the podcast is releasing an in-depth series on gendered digital unsafety featuring experts and feminist creators. “This data shows we want to hold tech companies accountable for our safety.”

When it comes to solutions, 44 per cent of people in Canada have seen ads or information about The Violence at Home Signal for Help, with women (46 per cent), 2SLGBTQIA+ people (59 percent), and those aged 18 to 34 (52 per cent) most likely to have seen it. Four per cent of people in Canada have personally used or seen the Signal used. The Governor General’s Innovation Award-winning Signal for Help is used to silently ask for help. It went viral during pandemic shutdowns and women and girls around the world have used it to get help in dangerous situations.

“We’re thrilled people know about the Signal for Help,” says Senior. “But does everyone know how to respond? Our goal is that every workplace and everyone in Canada will become confident, competent Signal for Help Responders in our national context of rising risk of abuse.”

Over 69,000 people have signed up with the Canadian Women’s Foundation to become Signal for Help Responders and get tools and training to support abuse survivors where they live, work, and play.

About the Canadian Women’s Foundation
The Canadian Women’s Foundation is Canada’s public foundation for gender justice and equality. We advance this by growing support for grassroots feminist action, partnering with communities and organizations to improve conditions, and building diverse leadership and knowledge for sustainable change. Since 1991, our generous donors and supporters have contributed more than $250 million to fund over 3,200 life-transforming programs throughout Canada.

The Signal for Help Project is funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada and Auschwitz Pledge Foundation’s Erase Indifference Challenge. The Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Alright, Now What? Podcast series is funded in part by Canadian Heritage.

About Maru
Maru Group is a professional research services channel dedicated to improving its clients’ business outcomes. It delivers its services through teams of sector-specific research consultants specializing in the use of Insight Community and Voice of Market technology. Maru Public Opinion publicly released polls with supporting detailed tables are found here: Maru Public Opinion Canada Polls. Corporate information can be accessed here: Maru Group. Excerpts from this release of findings should be properly attributed, with interpretation subject to clarification or correction. Maru Public Opinion does not do any work for any political party.

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