International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – November 26, 2018

[:en]November 26, 2018

Violence and Abuse against women and girls is a significant Global Health Problem around the world.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.  Reports of homicide crimes against women reveal that half of all female victims were killed by their partners or a close family member.

A high proportion of physical and sexual abuse against women and girls is committed by male intimate partners. An intimate partner may be a spouse, a former partner, boyfriend, a date, or a family member.

This violence impacts women and girls’ mental health as well as physical and reproductive health in significant ways. In addition, women with mental health problems, physical illness, alcohol, and drug abuse problems have a high risk of experiencing intimate partner violence and abuse which in turn worsens their conditions leading to an escalating downward spiral of disempowerment and vulnerability.

If untreated, victims may develop psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, impulsivity, or substance abuse. They may also develop physical problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and childbirth complications, chronic pain, headaches, or debilitating fatigue. If there are risk factors for or actual pre-existing illnesses, they can worsen and lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer.

Children of abused women are at elevated risk of developing mental health problems.

Research shows that male and female children of abused women have an elevated risk of developing mental health problems and higher susceptibility to later-life social problems. Children born to battered women have a higher risk of preterm delivery, low birth-weight, and neonatal death.

When the violence is perpetrated by an intimate partner or a trusted individual such as a family member, the experience of trauma can be severe and prolonged,  creating extra vulnerability and a sense of helplessness leading to a high chance of revictimization.

In cases of chronic violence, such as cases of long-term childhood physical or sexual abuse,  the victims experience chronic trauma that affects their ability to function for many years or their entire lifetime. Abused women and girls are at higher risk of facing social challenges such as unemployment, homelessness, trouble at school or in their workplace.

Violence against women and girls takes many forms:

  • Battering
  • Rape and other forced sexual acts including refusal to use protection
  • Child physical and sexual abuse
  • Child marriage
  • Bullying
  • Cyber-stalking
  • Financial or economic abuse for example by controlling access to finance
  • Female genital mutilation

Risk Factors for gender-based violence

  • Young age
  • Old age and frailty
  • Mental illness
  • Inadequate social networks, lack of family or community support
  • Cultural belief systems that promote or perpetuate gender-inequality
  • Social isolation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Power imbalances between partners
  • Low educational achievement


Violence against women can occur in all cultures, races, and societies.

Violence against women can occur in all cultures, races, and societies. In all societies, gender inequities are linked to increased violence against women.

Violence against women is a major obstacle to achieving equality, development of civil society, peace, and the fulfillment of human rights.

Marginalized women may be at increased risk of experiencing gender-based violence. They face multiple barriers due to additional factors that exert structural violence against them: discrimination, not being believed, difficulty accessing support, and finding safety.

  • First Nation, Métis and Inuit women and girls experience domestic violence and abuse at significantly higher rates than other women in Canada
  • Immigrant and refugee women who experience intimate partner violence face numerous barriers and challenges to disclosing and reporting abuse, accessing supports and services, and navigating intersecting legal processes and social support systems.
  • Marginalized women may be at higher risk of gender-based abuse and violence.

Some of the risk factors for refugee, immigrant, asylum-seeker, and other marginalized women include:

  • Immigration policies that leave immigrant women without recourse to the judiciary system
  • Temporary foreign worker status
  • Refugee claimants with precarious status
  • Cultural beliefs that discourage disclosing “private” matters
  • Loss of culture or acculturation
  • Loss of family structure due to immigration to a new country
  • Economic insecurity including those resulting from non-recognition of professional/educational credentials
  • Discrimination and racism within the service delivery system
  • Inadequate social networks, lack of family or community support
  • Cultural belief systems that promote or perpetuate gender-inequality
  • Social isolation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Power imbalances between partners
  • Low educational achievement

Resources for Women and Girls

If you are experiencing intimate partner violence or abuse, reach out to a trusted person, a friend, or a medical professional. You can also find services across Canada online or by phone


Francophone services

Francophone helpline for women 1 877 Fem-aide

Services in English or other languages

Assaulted Women’s Helpline 1-866-863-0511 – TTY 1-866-863-7868

Online resources


Resources for health professional working with victims or survivors of violence


Resources for Community Organizations

Migrant Mothers Project

National Resource Centre on Violence Against Women

A collection of digital stories was created by women who have a precarious immigration status in Canada and their advocates. The stories document the personal struggles faced by immigrant women who do not have citizenship or permanent residence. Each story illustrates how immigration policies impact women’s efforts to support themselves and their families while striving to build their lives in Canada.


Resources for Policy

Reports on the mechanisms through which Canadian Immigration Policies can increase the risk of violence and abuse for women: