Sexual abuse and sexual violence are crimes of power and control and can impact people across age, gender, ethnicity, race and economic status. Those at higher risk of sexual victimization include women who are Aboriginal, disabled, immigrant or refugee, but men and boys are also often victims.

Overview Statistics

  • One in six boys and one in four girls will experience a sexual assault before the age 18 (Dube et al., 2005). Global statistics show that, over the course of a lifetime, this increases to 1 in 3 women (Unifem, 2003) and 1 in 5 men (Barnet et al, 1997) who will experience some kind of sexual violence or abuse.
  • Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes…fewer than 10% of sexual assaults in both survey years were reported to the police (Statistics Canada, 2006).
  • 51% of women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16 (Statistics Canada, 2010)
  • 61% of rape victims are under the age of 18, and one third of them reported being victimized by someone they dated (Statistics Canada, 2010)
  • Factors like poverty, homelessness, loss and racism can increase the risk of sexual abuse. One study reported that youth who are homeless are much more likely to have experienced sexual abuse (Smith, et al, 2007)
  • Female youth (aged 12-17) have a higher risk of experiencing violence than boys and male youth, particularly related to sexual offences. In 2011, females in this age group were eight times more likely than male youth to be victims of sexual assault or another type of sexual offence. (General Social Survey, 2009)

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Sexual violence also happens within relationships, both heterosexual and same sex, dating, common-law or married.

  • Actual rates of sexual violence are likely much higher than official estimates as 9 out of 10 non-spousal sexual assaults were never reported to police. (General Social Survey, 2009)
  • Sexual assaults perpetrated by someone other than a spouse were least likely to come to the attention of police. Nine in 10 non-spousal sexual assaults were never reported to the police (General Social Survey, 2009)
  • Women may also be more at risk in some relationships. In 2011, women knew their sexual attacker in three-quarters of police-reported incidents: 45% as a casual acquaintance or friend, 17% as an intimate partner and 13% as a non-spousal family member. One-quarter of sexual assaults against women were committed by a stranger (Statistics Canada, 2013)

Childhood Sexual Abuse

  • Child victims knew the offender before the attack 90% of the time (Greenfeld, 1996)
  • In incidents of sexual assaults against children and youth, one study reports that: 35% of offenders were non-parental relatives 15% of offenders were the children’s friends and peers 13% of offenders were stepfathers 9% of offenders were biological fathers 9% of offenders were other acquaintances 5% of offenders were partners/ex-partners of the biological parent 5% of offenders were mothers (Trocme, Nico et all, 2003)
  • Children who are sexually abused are at significantly greater risk for post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and suicide attempts, and often display behaviour problems and at risk behaviours (Broman-Fulks, 2007).
  • Only about a third of child sexual abuse incidents/cases are identified, and even fewer are reported. Researchers estimate that 38% of child victims tell a friend, adult or authority that they have been sexually abused. Many of these disclosures don’t result in reports and many are never reported to authorities. (Finkelhor et al, 2012)
  • Researchers surveyed 1,213 grade 6 - 8 students at Toronto area schools on whether they had been a victim of unwanted sex behaviours in the previous 6 weeks: 22% of males reported having been victimized (Blackwell, 2002)
  • 32% of (or an estimated 4,519) child sexual abuse investigations conducted with Social Services Agencies in Canada in 1998 involved males. 16% of these investigations involved boys in the 4 - 7 age group (Trocme et al., 2001)

Residential Schools

Thousands of First Nations children attended residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church. Established in the 19th century, the goal was to assimilate Aboriginal children and strip them of their culture and language. Sexual exploitation and abuse was common, along with physical punishment and abuse.

  • In total, about 150,000 First Nations children passed through the residential school system (Smith, Andrea, 2009)
  • One study found that eight out of ten girls under eight years of age were victims of sexual abuse, and five out of ten boys were also sexually abused in Aboriginal communities with the high rate of abuse being traced to the legacy of residential schools. (Smith, Andrea, 2009)
  • A sample of 127 survivors revealed that half of these survivors have criminal records, 64% have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, 21% have been diagnosed with major depression, 7% have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and 7% have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (Robertson, L, 2006)


According to 2003 data from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, a significant number of Canadian sexual assault survivors are male:

  • 29% of child abuse victims were boys
  • 12% of youth victims were male
  • 8% of adult victims were male; over half of them and 53% were acquaintances of their attacker
  • Adult men with disabilities experience sexual abuse more often than those without them: 30% of sexual abuse survivors with disabilities are male (Sobsey, 1994).
  • Research suggests that 28% of gay men experience sexual assault committed by their partner (McClennen, Summers and Vaughan, 2002).
  • In one study of 30 male victims, the average age at the first time of abuse was 8 years, 4 months (Dorais, 2002)
  • Many individuals assume that homosexual males are responsible for the vast majority of male sexual assaults. In fact, only 7% of offenders report identifying as homosexual. (Romano, Elisa, 2001)


  • LGBTQ youth face increased risk of sexual violence. Youth under 30 were found to be 2.56 times as likely to experience sexual violence as compared to those over 30. (NCAVP, 2012)
  • Transgender people may experience a higher level of both intimate partner violence and sexual assault. (Gentlewarrior, 2009)
  • Sexual violence is often driven by a hate crime. Almost 10% of LGBTQ individuals report having experienced sexual trauma due to bias against their sexual orientation, and that the risk of sexual assault, sexual harassment/attempted assault, assault and stalking is higher as compared to other targeted groups. (Gentlewarrior, 2009)
  • According to one study, between 5 and 10% of sexual assaults against gay men were committed by heterosexual males as a form of “gay bashing” (Berrill, 1990).


Abusers who are held accountable for sexual abuse have a lower recidivism rate than people convicted of other offenses. Without treatment rates of reoffending are about 15-20%, and with treatment as low as 12%. (Hanson et al, 2002)

Studies show that while there is a correlation between sexual abuse and other forms of maltreatment in childhood with the perpetration of child sexual abuse later in life, victimization does not cause later offending. The majority of victims of child sexual abuse do not become perpetrators of child sexual abuse later in life (Salter et al. 2003).


Sexual abuse and sexual violence can have profound and lasting effects on individuals. This includes low self-esteem, feelings of shame, guilt or depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, difficulty with intimacy and self-destructive or suicidal behaviour, among other things.

  • As many as 50% of women and 25% of men who receive mental health services have experienced childhood sexual abuse (Cavanagh et al, 2004)
  • Children living with a mental illness, learning disability or physical disability are more than twice as likely to report childhood sexual abuse as their peers. These health problems also make it harder to identify mental health problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder, that are linked to the abuse (Smith, et al, 2009)
  • In a study of male survivors sexually abused as children, over 80% had a history of substance abuse, 50% had suicidal thoughts, 23% attempted suicide, and almost 70% received psychological treatment. (Lisak, 1994)
  • 75% of women in treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse report having been sexually abused. (Najavits, et al, 1997)
  • In a recent study, women who reported childhood sexual abuse were five times more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD compared to non-victims (Coid et al., 2003).
  • Another study showed that the lifetime rate of a PTSD diagnosis was over three times greater among women who were raped in childhood compared to non-victimized women (Saunders et al., 1999)
  • A study done on female prisoners showed that 80% were victims of childhood physical or sexual abuse (Conference on Child Victimization & Child Offending, 2000)


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