Major Justice Canada study puts big price tag on spousal violence

OTTAWA – A major federal investigation into spousal violence says it cost society at least $7.4 billion for the thousands of incidents that occurred in just one year.

The Justice Canada study examined a broad range of economic impacts, from policing and health-care to funerals and lost wages, for every incident of spousal violence in 2009.

Drawing on a Canada-wide police database, researchers found almost 50,000 cases of spousal violence reported to police that year, more than 80 per cent of them involving female victims. The cases included 65 spousal homicides, 49 of them women.

The study also mined an annual Statistics Canada telephone survey, which estimated some 336,000 Canadians in 2009 were victims of some form of violence from their spouse. The definition of spouse included married, common-law, separated, same-sex and divorced partners.

The authors then meticulously accounted for all costs associated with the violence, from the obvious — legal bills for prosecutions and emergency-room visits — to the painfully personal.

The latter includes purchasing special telephone services such as call display to identify a stalking spouse or ex-spouse, usually male; or moving expenses incurred to escape harassment and assault by relocating to another community.

Altogether, total costs were conservatively estimated at $4.8 billion for female victims and $2.6 billion for male victims.

“Spousal violence is a widespread and unfortunate social reality that has an effect on all Canadians,” says the 145-page report, completed this fall and obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

“Victims of spousal violence are susceptible to sustaining costly and long-lasting physical, emotional and financial consequences. … Every member of society eventually feels the impact of spousal violence through the additional financial strain imposed on publicly funded systems and services.”

The study is the third produced by Justice Canada since 2011 on the comprehensive cost of crime, all using similar methodology.

The first looked at the economic impact of all reported crimes in 2008 ($99.6 billion); the second, the costs of gun-related crime in 2008 ($3.1 billion). The latter was never published, given the politically charged subject matter, but was obtained earlier this year by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

A Vancouver academic who has conducted her own costing research into women who have left abusive partners welcomed the study as strong evidence that violence against women remains all too prevalent in Canada.

“There’s this ‘you’ve come a long way, baby’ kind of ethos in Canada … where people have a sense that perhaps violence is lessening, perhaps it’s less of a problem, perhaps women have greater equality, and that translates into less violence,” Colleen Varcoe said in an interview.

“There simply isn’t any evidence of that.”

Varcoe was lead researcher for a 2011 study that examined in detail costs associated with a sample of 309 women who left abusive partners, and projected the annual economic impact for all of Canada at $6.9 billion. Differing methodologies do not allow for direct comparison with the Justice Canada study.

The federal researchers found Canada’s justice system bore only about seven per cent of total costs, including legal aid; while third parties — such as employers, social-service agencies and children — incurred some 12 per cent.

Victims themselves bore the greatest cost burden, at more than 80 per cent or some $6 billion in 2009.

The sometimes murky estimates for the dollar value of victims’ pain and suffering, loss of life, and other so-called intangibles amounted to $5.5 billion, though the researchers were careful to draw on commonly accepted amounts established by courts, insurance companies and even the Treasury Board of Canada.

The report is also deliberately conservative: “Some cost items are underestimated as a precaution while others are omitted entirely.”

Varcoe says such studies help demonstrate to service-cutting governments that reducing access to housing, social services or legal aid does not make costs disappear but simply shifts them onto victims, employers, and troubled families, including vulnerable children.

A spokesman for Justice Canada says the study “was designed to fill a knowledge gap in Canada and raise awareness and understanding on the impact of spousal violence among the public and professionals in the criminal justice, health and social services sectors, among others.”

Christian Girouard also said the research helps fulfil Canada’s commitments under the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.




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Major Justice Canada study puts big price tag on spousal violence

  1. I grew up in different homes that were violent, as an adult I can still remember the violence all to well. I remember being so afraid as my stepfather beat my mother, I felt powerless to stop the crying, screaming and brutality.
    It’s too bad that the economy is always front and centre of governments minds, there are other things that are just as important. When the author talks about awareness, I’m surprised because this type of violence has been going on for ages.

  2. I suppose things have improved.
    My great-uncle, in PEI, beat his wife so continually, and badly, that she was institutionalized, finally. He hit one of his kids over the head with a poker. An 11-year old. All the kids had left home by age 12. None of the 5 boys in that family ever married, although the girls did. Nothing was ever done to the uncle. This violence was accepted, and was going on in other families that I knew in the 50s, 60s into the 1970s and beyond. One boy I knew had his jaw broken by his father – the kid had been a polio victim. In Canada. No wonder we accept a bullying government.

  3. $2.6 billion for male victims is not a number to ignore; where are the support services??
    Additionally, *men are 7 times less likely to report domestic violence to the police
    *there is more than an 80% chance if the man calls the police he will be arrested
    *you must consider the reason for the report; “$2.6 billion for male victims;
    Christian Girouard also said the research helps fulfil Canada’s commitments under the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.”
    *it seems the world is supports violence against men…
    *StatsCan Family Violence 2012 reported; 6.4% women and 6.0% men were abused by their partner; but there are 593 funded woman’s shelters and not a single full time funded bed for a man in Canada; where is the social equality to that????

  4. Half of the victims or DV are still denied services , mocked and stigmatized when calling police for help.wonder why we still call it Justice Canada,let’s live up to the name *Justice Canada*

  5. More to ponder;
    1. “50,000 cases of spousal violence reported to police that year, more than 80 per cent of them involving female victims…” (that means that 20% involve male victims)

    2. “Altogether, total costs were conservatively estimated at $4.8 billion for female victims and $2.6 billion for male victims.”

    3. BUT 20% of $7.4 billion= $1.48 billion

    4. THAT demonstrates that women almost do twice the amount of damage to men while men make up the minority of victims ( 2 X 1.48= 2.9)

    5. This report conclusively demonstrates women are more violent than men and do more damage in fewer incidents.

  6. I mean it’s hard to quibble with these figures without the report being released and being subject to some outside scrutiny – but really couldn’t we have just gotten the same number from someone selectively totaling the costs for DV services from the RCMP, the Justice department and various Social agencies and then apply the 80/20 rule? That is how it looks to me.

    On the other hand who could blame the government with keeping it under wraps as the only groups who have the free time and resources to review these figures do this are the feminist “clitoratii” and they would only use it to lobby for more grants/subsidies.

    My concerns would be to see if the substantial Police resources wasted by False Allegations are included? The same for opportunity costs of time spent by our Courts on False Allegations? Of course these are only the “direct” costs – what about the “indirect” costs that reverberate for years through the families effected – for legitimate and false claims?

    Also to place this $7.4 billion projection in context – it is interesting that the estimated Costs of Family Breakdown as calculated by Andrea Mrozek and Rebecca Wallenberg at The Institute of Marriage and Family CANADA was $7 billion (2006?)

    http://www.imfcanada.org/news/families-fail-cost-7-billion-year

  7. 600 DV shelters that DONT admit men
    1 that does receives 0 funding from the Government and is going under..
    no wonder the costs for helping men are so low,, the Gov of Canada refuses to fund help for male victims…
    SAVE MASH in Calgary if you can they need your help!

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