New survey finds 4.7 million women over 15 were victims of sexual assault in Canada

Some 1.2 million men (eight per cent) report having been sexually assaulted since age 15

Thirty per cent of all women aged 15 and older — some 4.7 million — were victims of sexual assault outside an intimate relationship at least once since the age of 15.

This is one of the figures appearing in a new report from Statistics Canada into gender-based violence and unwanted sexual behaviour in Canada. The report details initial findings of a 2018 survey.

The report defines gender-based violence as violence committed against someone based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender and encompasses a broad range of behaviours ranging from those which do not qualify necessarily as criminal (like unwanted sexual attention in public) to those that qualify as criminal acts (like physical and sexual assault).

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The findings appear on the eve of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women 2019 in Canada and within the larger context of the #MeToo movement.

Almost 40 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men 15 years and older — some 11 million Canadians — reported experiencing at least one physical or sexual assault since age 15, with three out of 10 women having reported a sexual assault. By comparison, 1.2 million men (eight per cent) report having been sexually assaulted since age 15.

Looking at physical assaults, one-third of men (33 per cent) and just over one-quarter of women (26 per cent) told the survey that they have experienced at least one physical assault since age 15.

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The survey also finds that the “vast majority” of incidents of violent crime did not come to the attention of police. Five per cent of women said that the most serious incident of sexual assault they experienced came to the attention of police either from themselves or otherwise. Meanwhile, 26 per cent of women and 33 per cent men who were physically assaulted said police found out about the most serious incident.

Women were also more likely to experience unwanted sexual behaviour in public places, at work and online, with the proviso that the difference in online harassment was less stark.

Other factors also shaped the level of unwanted sexual behaviour. Young women aged 15 to 24 were three times as likely to experience unwanted sexual behaviour than older women, whereas women belonging to a sexual minority were 2.8 times as likely than women outside that category.

Accounting for demographic factors, sexual orientation was also the largest risk factor for men, with men belonging to a sexual minority four times as likely to experience unwanted sexual behaviour in public than heterosexual men.

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