Survey finds drop in Canadians’ understanding of consent

New research shows that more than half of women 18-34 have felt pressured to consent

TORONTO – May 16, 2018 – A new study from the Canadian Women’s Foundation has found that Canadians’ understanding of consent has decreased over the last three years, with only 28 per cent of Canadians fully understanding what it means to give consent, compared with 33 per cent in 2015.

Despite the powerful conversations about sexual assault and harassment that #MeToo has sparked, confusion about what constitutes consent remains.

“#MeToo has opened up a channel for people to share their experiences, and the conversations have certainly touched on consent,” says Paulette Senior, President and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “We were initially surprised by the decline in understanding of consent and this finding, alongside the sheer volume of stories that have come out, tells us consent education is more essential than ever.”

The survey also revealed that 50 per cent of women in Canada have felt pressured to consent to unwanted sexual activity, which further demonstrates the critical need for education. In addition, nearly half of Canadians agree that education on how to give and get consent is the most important next step for the movement (44 per cent).

“Educating people in their teen years is key to instilling healthy relationship habits and skills,” says Anuradha Dugal, Director of Community Initiatives and Policy at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “The Canadian Women’s Foundation funds programs across Canada that help teens understand consent, identify the warning signs of abuse, and cultivate healthy positive, stable relationships, but we’re only able to fund a small percentage. These programs need to be accessible to every young person across Canada.”

Every May, the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Campaign to End Violence raises awareness about gender-based violence and funds for violence prevention programs (including Teen Healthy Relationship Programs) and about 450 emergency shelters across Canada. These services aim to end the cycle of violence for future generations, and ensure that survivors have the support they need to rebuild their lives. Canadians can take action this month in a number of ways, including visiting any WINNERS or HomeSense store across Canada and buying limited-edition ball caps, tank tops, or t-shirts (100 per cent of net proceeds support the campaign).

Survey Methodology

From April 23 to April 27, 2018, the Canadian Women’s Foundation partnered with Maru/Matchbox to conduct an online survey. The sample included 1,502 randomly selected Canadians aged 18 and over from Maru/Matchbox’s industry leading panel, Maru Voice Canada. The margin of error – which measures sampling variability – is +/- 2.5 nineteen times out of twenty. The results have been statistically weighted according to Census data by education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About the Canadian Women’s Foundation

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is Canada’s public foundation for women and girls. We empower women and girls in Canada to move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership. Since 1991, we’ve raised money and funded more than 1,500 community programs across Canada, and are one of the largest women’s foundations in the world. We take a positive approach to addressing root causes of the most critical issues facing women and girls. We study and share the best ways to create long-term change and bring community organizations together for training and to learn from each other. We carefully select and fund the programs with the strongest outcomes and regularly evaluate their work. We have a special focus on building a community of women helping other women. Helping women creates safer families and communities, and a more prosperous society for all of us. We invest in the strength of women and the dreams of girls. For more information, please visit Stay in touch with the Canadian Women’s Foundation by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, by joining our E-newsletter, and by reading our Blog.

For more information and to schedule interviews, contact:

Stacey Rodas
Manager of PR and Online Engagement, Canadian Women’s Foundation
416-365-1444 ext. 240

Andrea Cheung

Editor’s Note: When referring to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, please use the full name. Please do not abbreviate or use acronyms.