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In Newfoundland and Labrador, the rate of domestic violence against women is among the highest in Canada. Sexual assault of women is also all too common here. And the rates of sexual violence against women are increasing. Which is why the Don’t Be That Guy campaign was created.

Where does this violence come from? Violence against women has its roots in power. Even sexual assault is not about sex – it’s about the need to dominate and control women. To exercise power over them.

As a society, we have to address the roots of this problem. Those roots lie in some men’s attitudes toward women – attitudes that are expressed in many common behaviours. Like workplace harassment. Calling women names that are meant to put them in their ‘place’ or to sexualize them like ‘sweetheart.’ Catcalling. Feeling free to comment on how women dress, and even taking how women dress as an invitation. Thinking it’s fair game to have sex with a woman who’s asleep, drunk, or otherwise incapacitated and in no position to consent. Not to mention failing to understand that no means no, and stop means stop. Even in a relationship. Even during consensual sex.

Both self-reported and police data confirm that the large majority of those who are sexually assaulted in Canada are women.

Hanging red dresses in public spaces to draw attention to the issue of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women began in 2010 as an installation project by Métis artist Jaime Black.

The ultimate act of violence

2018 was the first year that anyone collected information about the number of women and girls who were murdered in Canada. That year, 148 women and girls were murdered in total. Most were killed by an intimate partner or someone they knew.

The highest rate was in Nunavut; the lowest in Quebec. No women or girls were killed in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018. Sadly, that’s an anomaly.

Indigenous women were drastically over-represented in these sad statistics. Although they are only about 5 per cent of the population, they made up 36 per cent of the women and girls killed. Women in rural and remote communities were also over-represented.

This figure does not include missing women who are suspected to be victims of murder.

SOURCE: Myrna Dawson, M., Sutton, D., Carrigan, M., Grand’Maison, V. #CallItFemicide: Understanding gender-related killings of women and girls in Canada 2018. Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. www.femicideincanada.ca/callitfemicide.pdf

As of 2018, Newfoundland & Labrador had identified 138 missing and murdered women.

Many women are murdered by an intimate partner. This is most likely to happen once they indicate the relationship is finished, or after they’ve actually left.

Some groups of women are at higher risk of violence of all kinds.

Indigenous women

The self-reported rate of sexual assault of indigenous women in Canada is more than triple that of non-indigenous women. The self-reported rate of spousal violence of indigenous women in Canada is also three times higher than non-indigenous women. Ninety-six per cent of indigenous females who self-reported physical violence also reported emotional or financial abuse. Twenty-two per cent of indigenous women self-reported experiencing post-separation intimate partner violence compared to seven per cent of non-indigenous women within five years after the separation.

SOURCE: Department of Justice. Research and Statistics Division. JustFacts: Victimization of indigenous women and girls. July 2017.

Women with disabilities

Women and girls with disabilities are disproportionately affected by violence and abuse. Women with disabilities are twice as likely as those without to be the victim of violent crimes. They are also twice as likely to have been victimized more than once in the last 12 months. In 45 per cent of incidents of self-reported crime (including sexual assault and physical assault) the victims were women with disabilities.

Women with disabilities are twice as likely as women without disabilities to have been sexually assaulted in the last year.

23 per cent of women with disabilities have been the victims of emotional, financial, physical, sexual violence, or abuse by former or current partners in the past 5 years.

39 per cent of women with disabilities have experienced spousal violence, 46 per cent have been physically injured because of this violence, and 38per cent have feared for their lives.

38 per cent of women with disabilities report physical or sexual assault before the age of 15, and 18per cent report sexual abuse by an adult before the age of 15.

44 per cent of women with a disability reported the perpetrator was a friend, acquaintance, or neighbour. 30 per cent of incidents occurred in the home.

Women with disabilities living in marital or common law unions are 40 per cent more likely to experience violence.

For women with disabilities, the risk of violence increases when they are also racialized, younger, indigenous, LGBTQ2, immigrants, or living in rural areas.

SOURCE: DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada. More than a footnote: A research report on women and girls with disabilities in Canada. 2019.

Young women

Research shows 15-25% of college- and university-aged women will experience some form of sexual assault during their academic careers.

Other high risk groups

Although statistics are scant, and that’s a problem, members of the LGBTQ2 community and newcomers to Canada are also known to be at higher risk of sexual harassment and acts of sexual violence. In fact, much of the bullying experienced by young people who identify as part of the LGBTQ2 community can be characterized as sexual harassment and / or sexual assault.