Addressing Sexual Violence Against Women in Canada

This fact sheet provides an overview of key findings related to best practices included in the Sexual Violence Against Women in Canada issue brief produced for the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Forum for the Status of Women.Footnote 1 The issue brief highlights that women represent the vast majority of those who are sexually assaulted and that gender is a fundamental determinant of sexual violence. It also provides information on national and provincial data on sexual violence as well as data on particular subpopulations of women who are at increased risk. Information on relevant programs, policy changes, and effective interventions are discussed. This information is intended to support policy, program development and decision making for government, non-government organizations, service providers, academics and others working to address sexual violence against women in Canada.

Best Practices

Addressing sexual violence involves comprehensive policies that:

  • are informed by the best available data on the nature and extent of sexual violence;
  • concentrate on preventing sexual violence by focusing on root causes, including gender inequality;
  • address the short and long term needs of survivors;
  • address sexual violence as a specific issue, but within the broader context of gender-based violence;
  • adopt a multi-sectoral approach, with input from key response sectors and ongoing collaboration (including government departments and agencies, communities, and non-governmental organizations);
  • contain detailed action plans to ensure successful delivery of identified programs; and
  • incorporate monitoring and evaluation in order to assess program effectiveness.

Addressing sexual violence involves inclusive prevention strategies that:

  • frame sexual violence within the context of gender inequality;
  • promote positive behaviour changes;
  • advance social norms that promote gender equality;
  • offer intensive, interactive learning opportunities over time with reinforcing messages;
  • present messages that are relevant to the intended audience and engage the broader community (e.g., women, girls, men, boys, bystanders, etc.); and
  • have messengers who are trusted and seen as knowledgeable by the intended audience.

Addressing sexual violence involves diverse approaches to intervention that:

  • encourage collaboration between supports including healthcare, legal, sexual assault service professionals, and other community organizations and resources;
  • consider trauma-informed approaches that incorporate an understanding of the impact of sexual violence on a woman’s life, and emphasize trust and collaboration between survivors and professionals. These approaches place a priority on safety, choice and control of survivors to minimize re-victimization, and facilitate recovery and empowerment; and
  • include supports for diverse groups of women including women who are Aboriginal, Francophone, racially and culturally diverse, disabled, homeless, women involved in the sex industry, women with mental illness and/or addictions, and trans women.

In Canada, there are provincial/territorial policies and/or action plans that specifically address sexual violence through prevention efforts and enhanced supports for survivors. Specific provincial/territorial approaches are outlined in the Sexual Violence Against Women in Canada issue brief.


Footnote 1

Benoit, Cecilia, et al. 2014. Sexual Violence Against Women in Canada. Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Forum for the Status of Women

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