Dating violence in Canada rose sharply between 2004 and 2008, according to a report released by Statistics Canada.
Nearly 23,000 incidents of "dating violence" were reported to police in Canada in 2008. These incidents accounted for more than one-quarter (28%) of police-reported violent incidents perpetrated by intimate partners.
In the four years since 2004, rates of police-reported dating violence increased steadily, by 40 per cent in the case of women, and by 47 per cent in the case of men.
Overall, women accounted for 8 in 10 dating violence victims known to police in 2008. The majority of incidents of dating violence occurred once the relationship had ended. About 57% of incidents coming to the attention of police were committed by a former partner.
Among female victims, the highest rate of dating violence involved women between 30 and 34 years of age. For men, the rate was highest among those between the ages of 35 to 39.
Among teenagers 15 to 19, the police-reported rate of dating violence experienced by females was 10 times higher than the rate for their male counterparts. Adolescent victims of police-reported dating violence were most often victimized by a suspect who was older.
About 10% of male victims and 1% of female victims of dating violence involved same-sex dating relationships.
Common assault, the form of assault resulting in the least physical injury to victims, was the most frequent type of violent offence committed in dating violence incidents. It accounted for half of all violent police-reported incidents by dating partners. Criminal harassment, uttering threats and indecent or harassing phone calls were more likely to occur in dating violence incidents compared with incidents of spousal violence.
According to police-reported data, 71% of incidents involving dating violence against female victims resulted in police charges, compared with 57% against male victims. These gender-based differences in charging were most pronounced among teenage victims, aged 15 to 19.
Since research suggests young victims and perpetrators of dating violence may be at higher risk of continuing the cycle, much of the response to dating violence in Canada has focused on school-based education and awareness campaigns.
"Prevention efforts have focused on teaching adolescents problem-solving and conflict-management skills to help them develop healthy relationships," the report noted.
The study likely represents only a portion of incidents of violence committed in dating relationships. Data from the 2004 General Social Survey on victimization found that many victims of violence do not report the abuse to police.
For the purposes of the study, dating violence involved violent incidents reported by police that were committed by a current boyfriend or girlfriend, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, or by a person with whom the victim had an intimate but non-spousal relationship. These people were not living together.