Crime rates dropping, except for sexual assault

StatsCan reports a decade of decline in crime but sex assualt and higher vicitmization for Aboriginals are issues. (Photo: Katie Pedersen) StatsCan reports a decade of decline in crime but sex assualt and higher vicitmization for Aboriginals are issues. (Photo: Katie Pedersen)

Christine Tippett and Serge Halytsky
Senior Reporters

While the rate of other crimes is down, reported sexual assault has not gone down in a decade, according to a new Statistics Canada report.

One in five Canadians 15 years or older reported they had been victims of a crime in the last year, down from one in four Canadians a decade ago.

The data was collected through the General Social Survey (GSS) and was based on self-reported incidents of victimization.

The types of crime measured in the survey include violent victimization – sexual assault, robbery and physical assault – and household victimization – breaking and entering, theft of motor vehicles or parts, theft of household property and vandalism.

The measured rate of all crimes decreased over the ten-year span but sexual assault numbers remained stable, the report said.

The report also said that only five per cent of sexual assault cases were reported to police, while one-third of all other incidents of victimization were reported.

There are many different reasons why this may be a phenomenon.

Women often feel intimidated to report sexual assaults, said Janet Wilson, manager of Violence Against Women program at Family Services Toronto. She said it’s difficult to go through the court process and women have to share a lot of personal information when report incidents.

“Very often the perpetrator gets off,” Wilson said. “Women are often blamed for being provocative or provoking the sexual assault.”

Wilson said Family Services Toronto often works with new immigrants who are even less likely to report sexual assaults.

According to the survey, there were more reports of women being victimized than men in 2014.

“This difference was mainly attributed to the relative stability in the rate of sexual assaults, an offence mostly involving female victims, along with a decrease in the rates of other violent crimes, which mostly involved male victims,” the report said.

The data in the report is consistent with issues surrounding incidents of sexual assault in society, said Jen McMillen, Humber Dean of Students.

“It’s certainly very challenging for any survivor of sexual assault. Women are more likely to be assaulted and it is challenging for people to feel safe to come forward,” McMillen said.

Humber has worked hard to encourage people to feel they can be supported and feel comfortable reporting, said McMillen.

“If we look at sexual assault and if we look at victims who are women versus other types of crime, the reality is that this exists within our system of patriarchy and misogyny, where is still normalization of violence against women and sexualization of women,” McMillen said.

The report also stated that, despite significant differences between self-reported (survey) victimization and police-reported crime data, both show similar overall trends over the past 10 years.

Canadians who reported using drugs or binge drinking were victimized four times more than non-users. Aboriginal people had higher victimization rates than non-Aboriginal people – particularly Aboriginal women.

People who had been abused by an adult during childhood were twice as likely, and those with a mental health-related or learning disability were four times more likely to be victimized than the rest of the population surveyed.

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