Site Home   Gender and Trauma       Introduction to Gender and Health   The Gender Lens Tool

Domestic Violence

WHO Global Campaign for Violence Prevention



Did you know that:

  • 1 in 4 Canadian women will experience an episode of domestic violence during their lifetime [1];

  •  7% of Canadian women experienced physical and/or sexual abuse by current or former partner in previous 5 years [2];

  • 3-30% of women seen in Emergency Departments are there because of abuse (multiple studies);

  • 44% of Canadian women were injured during an assault; 13% sought medical attention;

  • In Ontario in the years 2002-2005 there were 113 fatal DV incidents with 148 fatalities (99 women, 9 children, 48 men majority of whom committed suicide) [3];

  • 69% of intimate femicide victims were abused prior to their deaths; 41% of these were seen in a health care setting in the year prior to their death[3];

  • 44% of victims told someone about the abuse; 37% told their healthcare provider [4]?


Domestic violence (DV), also known as intimate partner violence, spouse abuse, or woman abuse, is one of the most pervasive forms of gendered violence and one of the most challenging to address.  In Canada, the prevalence of DV has been determined by 2 large, population based surveys. The 1999 and 2004 General Social Surveys asked about violence perpetrated by a current or former partner and experienced during the previous year or in the past 5 year period. The prevalence of violence in the1999 and 2004 studies was 8% and 7% respectively. An earlier seminal study, the Violence Against Women Survey conducted in 1993, asked about lifetime exposure to violence and reported that half of all Canadian women over the age of 16 have experienced at least one episode of violence.


DV is associated with both acute and chronic health outcomes for women. All of the following have been linked to DV:


  • physical injuries

  • ongoing anxiety and depression

  • pelvic pain

  • sexual and gynaecological problems

  • reduced autonomy

  • diminished quality of life

  • decreased ability to care for self and family

  • diminished productivity

  • decreased participation in social and community activities

The longer the exposure occurs, the worse the woman’s health outcomes. Not surprisingly, women who have experienced abuse are known to use health services at rates higher than do women who have not been abused, including higher rates of physician visits, emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Women who experience emotional abuse but no physical assaults also experience more physical complaints, somatic disturbances and make more medical visits than non-abused women.


Many health-related accreditation bodies and professional associations in North America have acknowledged the prevalence and health sequelae of violence and have issued policy statements or position papers on the issue.  The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association, Canadian Psychiatric Association, Ontario Medical Association and Ontario Hospital Association, among others, have acknowledged the importance of the issue and called for improved detection, standardized training and policy development.


To learn more about this important issue and how best to help women experiencing violence, visit the new, engaging game-based curriculum found at:



In this online, competency based, interactive, video game-based curriculum you will learn to recognize common and subtle presentations, red flags and health sequelae, practice responding to patient disclosure and learn how to support patients who choose not to disclose, elements of a risk assessment, documentation, and child reporting legislation and more. Each of the 12 scenarios teaches new skills while reinforcing earlier ones in a unique and engaging way.





1. Statistics Canada. Violence Against Women Survey. Catalogue: 11-001E. 1993. Ottawa.

2. Statistics Canada. General Social Survey on Victimization, Cycle 18: An Overview of Findings, Catalogue: 85-565-XIE.. Ottawa.

3. Sharps P, Campbell J, Campbell D, Gary F & Webster D. The role of alcohol use in intimate partner femicide. The American Journal on Addictions. 2001;10:122-135.

4. Family Violence Prevention Fund. The Facts on Health Care and Domestic Violence. accessed February 11 2008

All references for this section