Family Violence in Canada. Physical and Emotional Abuses

What must be done to break the cycles of inter-generational violence in Canada? Though a simple question, it points towards many relevant issues related to violence at homes in Canada. A detailed discussion of the homicides, and physical and emotional abuses is enough to horrify anyone. My purpose in writing this essay is to consider the various methods by which such atrocities can be prevented or at least controlled. This includes the organizations and laws by the Government and the significance for social work in the matter.

To begin with, the meaning of inter-generational cycles of violence must be analyzed. Every kind of physical, emotional and verbal maltreatment between the family members can be included under this category. Violence might occur between husband and wife, father and child, mother and child, brother and sister and even towards grandparents, resulting in homicides, divorces or even more violence. This kind of cruelty is in general called ‘domestic violence.’ If a record of domestic violence issues during the last 10 years in Canada were to be taken, a steady rise in its frequency and number would be understood. The situation now is that, almost every household in Canada has a history of at least one incident of violence. The reasons for such inhuman activities are to be studied for a further discussion. There are several factors leading to homicides and abuse like stress from work, poverty, children and anger. It simply might also be because of the violent nature of an individual. Whatever the reasons, the distressing factor is that these actions result in homicides or family break-ups, and sometimes lead to depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The victims often have physical and health problems, might turn to smoking or drinking to come out of its psychological effects. “Many youth who experience prolonged abuse or witness family violence, leave home at a young age. For example, a study of youth living on the streets in Toronto found that 70% had been exposed to family violence.” (Health effects of a family violence: High-risk sexual practices, 2003). It is very important to make efforts to control every kind of domestic violence because when the individuals are affected, so is the society. Social work plays a lead role in this direction by studying the cases in detail and creating better awareness of their consequences among the public. A major issue is violence-afflicted children. What makes me wonder is that women are the main culprits in cases of violence on children. Children are considered a main reason for stress and often very silly reasons cause the parents to physically injure the child. The children even suffer sexual abuse from their parents and guardians. Sometimes cases of depression are noted in children due to the negligence of their parents. This may be due to a misunderstanding or fight between the parents or because a particular child is an unwanted one or a handicapped one. (Canadian family violence statistics-section 2: Child abuse and murder, 1998). Next is the case of marital violence which is undoubted of universal relevance. In this category too, the reasons for most of the cases are silly, negligible matters. Husbands beat their wives for not scrubbing the floor or cleaning the dishes. At times, the husbands resort to violence only to exercise their physical power on their wives. Sexual abuses too are not uncommon among partners. There are situations when it is vice versa; men get assaulted or abused by women.

Another kind is torturing or hurting the elder ones who are financially dependent on their grown-up children. The grandparents who are weak to defend themselves suffer all the cruelties inflicted on them. In many cases, the reasons are money-related. Another cause stated is that they are a burden to the children who already find it difficult to meet both ends together. Coming to the study of violence towards brother or sister, it is said to be mainly the competition to outsmart the other in money and status.

Canada has a very long history as far as violence is concerned. Almost every form of violence can be seen in the society including family violence, student violence and gangster violence. Many social factors have led to the present condition Canada is facing now. Violence has become a part of their lives. One reason for this is said to be colonization which led to migration from other countries. This caused a mixture of cultures and religions in America. Gradually as differently cultured people started marrying, this led to conflicts between them in matters of traditions and beliefs. This has been carried on to future generations and violence is in every field of work and study in Canada. (Morrison, 2004). Since this issue is social as much as it is domestic, I believe it is essential to include the public perception about domestic violence. A survey done by National Center for Public Opinion Polling shows that 49.2% of the population believes that domestic violence is a private issue, while the rest consider it as a social issue. Violence against women was considered the most common by 66.2% of the public. The main reasons for violence were suggested as poverty by 76.1%, unemployment by 51.2% and lastly, stress by 42.2% of the respondents. 43.8% of them knew of children witnessing rows between the parents. 5.5% of them had experienced physical abuse, 12.2% had undergone psychological abuse and 4.5% refused to give any response. 73.2% opined that the role of social workers in helping the victims is a major one. (Public opinion on domestic violence, n.d). Other surveys taken earlier showed that a majority of them did not believe that children being scolded in public places cannot be considered as abuse or that it will affect them in any way.

However, a statistical data provided by Canadian Center for Justice Statistics in the year 2006, shows 38,000 incidents of marital violence out of which female victims account for about 83% of the victims. 107 per 100,000 children and youth were physically or sexually abused by the parent. Cases of incidents against older people recorded were the least among them. It was nearly 16 times lower than that of children and youth. (Family Violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2008, 2008).

There is a general belief among the public that men are the ones physically and sexually abusing women and not the other round. But that is not true. In fact, women commit more violence than men, but the system of law seems to be biased towards women. Any crime is considered so only if men do it. Here is an excerpt from an article that was published in National Post in 2006 about the political viewpoint on the matter of marital violence. “And yet our government, our social services and our judiciary prescribe remedies based on a false and simplistic view that denies not just the unprovoked violence committed by women in relationships, but the number and severity of the assaults engaged in by both partners in mutually violent couples.” (Dutton, 2006).

Here is a real-life incident of child abuse. Philip, who is now 38 years old, describes his sufferings during his childhood. He underwent both physical and emotional child abuse and was also neglected in his family. He lived with his mother in a small town. When he was about six years old, his mother used to beat him almost daily telling him to correct his behavior. What resulted were behavior problems due to the daily physical abuses. This continued till he reached his teenage and started to frighten her with same threat. He was not allowed to mingle with any other child. Instead he was isolated in his house. He had no friends in his childhood. After he became older, his mother started alleging that he was a child molester. She wanted him to be officially declared as mentally abnormal. She also gave him drugs to make him behave abnormally to establish it. This was done to prevent his getting any job by making him ill. It was from lab report that he understood she was using drugs on him. He says it was done because she believed that only what she did was right. She was deceptive and greedy and wanted to take his rights off him. His health improved after he moved away from his mother. But she visited him and again tried to convince his neighbors that he’s ill with another dose of her unauthorized drugs. The effects of child abuse on him as he states are his inability to adjust with others and loss of many job opportunities due to the unauthorized drugs his mother used on him. Philip says that it is unbelievable that any mother would show such cruelty to own child out of selfishness when mothers are believed to care for their children. This case is a very good example which can be quoted as a proof that mothers are equally or even more cruel than fathers in many cases. A six-year-old child might not be matured enough to even understand every word that he hears. It is shocking to hear about a mother beating her six-year-old child with leather belt. Leave alone beating, I cannot imagine how a mother can make allegations that her son is abnormal when most mothers claim that their children are extra-brilliant and smart. Like he says, mothers have the highest place in a child’s life. The negligence that he felt during his childhood created a distance between the mother and the child. Had she tried to understand her son better, he would have been more successful in life. Her abuse destroyed the social being in him, which consequentially affected his social life and career. There are hundreds of similar incidents where the children suffer due to the ignorance of the parents. The best way to put a control over such crimes is to create awareness among everyone about its consequences. Many of the abusers are from small towns and it might be their ignorance that causes such uncivilized behavior in them. The following is taken from an interview by ‘The Insider’ with Jaslene Gonzalez, one of the top models, in which she reveals that she too was a victim of violence. “I thought I was going to die,” Jaslene says as she recalls one incident. “I really lost my breath — I was trying too hard to get him off of me. But then it just came to the point where he let me go.” (Balser, 2009).

It is very important to prevent further increase in homicides and abuses because it affects the society as a whole. It is estimated that about 3.9 million women are raped every year. Social work can, to an extent, improve the condition because many of the victims; especially sexually assaulted women, refuse to file any case out of their fear and apprehension and they might speak better to the social workers. Social work is done out of the humanitarian values in one’s mind. People volunteering to work for a social cause will be more sincere in their work, and so they have produced better results. Social work in Canada began very long back because the society dealt with various social problems always throughout its history in the last century. The book Social Work in Canada deals with the social work in Canada. (Hick, n.d).

Apart from this, I personally feel that social workers must come forward to give talks to every family with a history of violence as a precaution to control further episodes of it and to provide assistance in any issue, like, for example, if a mother needs help in looking after her child, social workers volunteer to help. They offer support to victims of any kind of abuse and provide services like counseling when and where required. They also help in providing shelter to the victims, have personal discussions with them. A social justice community organizes efforts to prevent such violence from happening in homes. It should be noted that domestic violence is a social justice issue. ‘Direct Service Providers’ and ‘Community Education Coordinator’ play major roles in providing shelter to the victims and in giving education for professional development. (Cline, n.d). A family Violence Prevention Committee was begun in 1997, to go amidst the communities and help them with their problems. Also a ‘Healing the Family Circle’ program was started in 1990 to conduct workshops to make the people aware about the consequences of domestic violence. Family violence Parenting Project started in 1995, deals with everything that a young mother needs to know taking care of the child including matters like behavior, child health and development. National Association of Social Workers is an association which helps the victims even in courts and shelters. (The social work response to domestic violence, 2009).

Through a Family Violence Initiative, the federal government asks for the Canadians to work together to eliminate domestic violence and abuse against children, women and elder people. There were separate communities for women, children and elders. Funds were allotted by the different departments in the government for this purpose. The seven major program elements for the project were:

  1. Increasing the awareness among the public and community action as part of prevention
  2. Making legal laws stricter to deal with abusers
  3. Building services on Indian reserves and other communities
  4. Making criminal justice stronger, health intervention and providing treatment to the victims
  5. Alternative housing facilities for the victims that last longer and also providing enough shelters
  6. Updating on national information about domestic violence
  7. Sharing the information and solutions that are available to every social service organization in Canada. (Canada’s family violence initiative: partnerships, 2009).

In October, 2008, hospitals, educators and medical students held activities to make an assessment of the victims of domestic violence. The American Medical Association and its Alliance along with physicians joined Family Violence Prevention Fund to create better response for health care by the people. The intention for this was that doctors, medical students and nurses can do a lot to help the victims in treatment and improving their health conditions. The Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence developed a strategy for five years. Like most of the other social organizations in Canada, they too developed their strategy to listen to the problems of the victims, provide consultations to them and create a better awareness among the people about domestic violence and its after-effects. As part of it, they heard the problems of many islanders and communities which faced the major problems. They gave certain principles to guide the people: any kind of violence between family members is unacceptable, equal right is given to every individual and family, everyone has a right to secured life, well-being and respect, every victim and abuser are supposed to undergo the required quality services, all people are equal irrespective of race and color, prevention and response to family violence is the responsibility of everyone, and the knowledge about the survivors is required to serve them appropriately. (Premier’s action committee on family violence protection. n.d).

Here’s a newsletter that was brought out by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2005 to announce their 2006 future works and campaigns to deal with domestic violence. This very long newsletter dealt with almost all the aspects of domestic violence. It suggested methods to the parliament and the senators, to community organizations about how to inform the public about it. It also described to the public how to respond if oneself or a friend becomes a victim of family violence. (National clearinghouse on family violence, 2005).

To conclude, there have been active efforts and participation both from the side of the public and from the side of the government to build a safer family which leads to a safer and more secure society. I strongly believe that cases like that of Philip’s which are surely common can be reduced greatly with the help of social workers because in many of these incidents, the abuser does harm to family members as a result of wrong notions about what is right and wrong. Lastly, every individual must be taught about the value of families and relations and the consequences of child abuse, women abuse and elder abuse.


Balser, Erin. (2009). Jaslene Gonzalez speaks about domestic abuse. Topmodel Gossip. Web.

Canada’s family violence initiative: partnerships. (2009). Scielo Public Health. Web.

Canadian family violence statistics-section 2: Child abuse and murder. (1998). Fathers for Life. Web.

Cline, Rebecca. (n.d.). Domestic violence – How social workers help. Social Workers Help Start Here. 2009. Web.

Dutton, Don. (2006). Domestic violence isn’t one-sided. National Post. Web.

Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2008. (2008). Canadian Center for Justice Statistics. Web.

Health effects of a family violence: High risk sexual practices. (2003). Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. 3. Web.

Hick, Steven. (n.d.). Social work in Canada: An introduction. Thomson Educational Publishing. 2009. Web.

Morrison, Kathleen Malley. (2004). International perspectives on family violence and abuse. Web.

National clearing house on family violence. (2005). The Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Web.

Pardy, James., Pardy., & James. (2005). Conflict Management in Law Enforcement. Emond Montgomery. Web.

Premier’s action committee on family violence protection. (n.d.). Family Violence Prevention: Five Year Strategy. 2009. Web.

Public opinion on domestic violence. (n.d). National Center for Public Opinion Polling. 2009. Web.

The social work response to domestic violence. (2009). NASW: National Association of Social Workers. Web.

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