Domestic Violence Leading Cause of Homelessness for Canadian Women and Children
Researcher Jean Quinn referred to domestic violence as a global issue “widely ignored and poorly understood”. Whenever the general public falls short of understanding, innocent people fall as well. In Canada and across the globe, domestic violence has an unexpected, devastating aftereffect for the women and children who manage to escape it: homelessness.
As you might imagine, fleeing an unsafe environment only to wind up in an even less safe environment can take an astronomical physical and psychological toll on an individual. It can be even worse if that individual flees with her children. Domestic violence is a key reason behind the increase in Canadian family and child homelessness. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the tough statistics that illustrate the link between these two tragedies.
Domestic Violence in Canada is not Only Rising – It’s Also Grossly Underreported
While statistics show a dramatic increase in domestic violence (particularly against women and young girls) in Canada, experts assure the numbers are likely much higher than what we see on our screens. In fact, some say approximately 70% of intimate partner violence crimes go unreported. This is a pretty terrifying statistic when you consider approximately 50% of Canada’s women admit to having endured at least one act of domestic violence since reaching puberty. The mere thought of a vast female population walking around with the shadow of domestic violence following everywhere they go should be enough to rattle the media. Yet silence persists not just in the hearts of the victims, but often in the words of mass media publications as well.
There are numerous reasons domestic violence victims choose not to flee or even report. Some of the top concerns include:
- Fear of not being believed
- Little to no action taken to stop the abuser
- More severe incidents of abuse as a result of attempting to flee
- Political barriers
- Stigmatism based on gender, race, ethnic background, disability, or social status
- Fear that something worse awaits them
As Tragic as These Fears May Seem, They’re not Unfounded
To be clear, domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender and background. However, an astounding 80% of all homicide victims whose deaths were related to family violence were women killed by their intimate partners. Women also account for seven out of every 10 incidents of domestic violence. And they make up 87% of Canada’s sexual assault victims. As statistics would have it, the more marginalized the person reporting a crime is, the less likely they are to be:
- Protected from future acts of violence
Even more unfortunately, statistics also prove spousal violence and homicide is much more common when women attempt to break free from their abuser.
Canada Doesn’t Have Enough Safe Havens for Domestic Violence Victims
Life at the hands of an abuser is difficult enough. Now imagine gathering up the strength to leave, to take the children, to sneak out in the wee hours of the night and get as far away as possible, only to learn there is no place to go.
The reason so many domestic violence victims wind up homeless is because the shelter system isn’t structured or properly funded to accommodate them.
Canada has made great leaps in its legislative push to bring the right to housing to each and every citizen. However, that fight is far from over. Canada’s supportive housing system for domestic violence victims is both overcrowded and underfunded. Every night, hundreds of domestic abuse survivors are denied beds because shelters have maxed out to capacity. For this reason and many more, many women stay in abusive relationships. They fear of losing the only safety they have left – the walls of their broken homes. Hollow as they seem, these walls are the only thing these women have left to hold onto. And so they stay, facing the very real possibility of death at the hands of an abusive partner.
Let Us Not Forget that Men Can Become Victims of Domestic Violence, Too
Even though women vastly overrepresent the population of domestic violence victims, this nightmare happens to men, too. Sadly, male domestic violence victims are even more vulnerable to homelessness because there are even fewer housing options for them. Here is one man’s story…
Canada native Michael Healey was victimized by his intimate partner for five years before coming forward with his terrifying tale. What started out as throwing objects in his direction eventually escalated to brandished weapons and Michael fearing for his life.
“I got to a place where I literally did not know what to do next,” explained the baritone laden man with broad shoulders and a welcoming smile. “Hitting another person just isn’t in my nature.”
When he reached his breaking point and garnered the strength to leave, he learned most shelters for domestic violence victims only accept female residents.
Domestic Violence Victims, Both Male and Female, Need a Place to Heal
People who survive traumatic situations brought about by their own loved ones need special attention and support. On the streets, they will only find more heartache around every corner. Homeless people as a whole are significantly more likely to become victims of violence than other members of society. This vicious cycle just goes from one form of abuse to the next.
Talk to your local representatives about building more safe spaces for domestic violence victims in Canada and about having the funds to provide the emotional assistance and support they so desperately need.