Update of the Statistics section: May 12, 2022

Statistics

Higlights

  • About 9 out of 10 victims of sexual assault are girls or women.
  • Youth aged 15 to 24 are the age group with the largest proportion of sexual assault victims.
  • More than 8 out of 10 victims know their sexual abuser.
  • In nearly 9 cases out of 10, the person accused of committing the sexual assault is a boy or a man.
  • Youth aged 12 to 17 are the age group most often accused of sexual assault.
  • More than half of sexual assaults against adults are committed in a private residence or on private property.
  • Sexual assault with a weapon or causing physical injuries accounts for a minority of police-reported sexual assaults.
  • Available statistics underestimate the actual situation, since not all sexual assaults are disclosed or reported to police services or during investigations.
  • In Canada, only a small proportion (5% to 6%) of sexual assaults are reported to the police every year.

For more information on sexual assault statistics:


Overview

In Québec, in 2018, according to data from the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS), 11% of women and 4% of men reported being sexually abused by an adult during childhood (before the age of 15). This is equivalent to 7.5% of the Québec population1.

In Canada, in 2018, according to data from the same survey, 33% of women and 9% of men reported being sexually assaulted as an adult (since the age of 15), when considering sexual assault committed by an intimate partner or another person2.

In Québec, in 2019, according to data reported by police services, the sexual offence rate was 109.4 per 100 000 population, for a total of 9 116 sexual offences (see Table 1). Sexual assaults accounted for the majority of sexual offences (61.6%), while other sexual offences accounted for a minority of all sexual offences3.

Table 1 - Victims of police-reported sexual offences in Québec, by age, sex and type of offence, 2019

Sexual offences* Young people (aged 0 to 17) Adults (aged 18 and over) Total** Women Men Total
N % N % N N % N % N

Sexual assault (levels 1 to 3)

2 589

45.7

3 073

54.3

5 662

5 050

88.3

672

11.7

5 722

Total, other sexual offences*

3 047

90.2

309

9.2

3 356

2 784

82.0

610

18.0

3 394

Sexual interference

1 855

98.7

0

0

1 855

1 532

81.5

347

18.5

1 879

Invitation to sexual touching

231

99.1

0

0

231

170

73.0

63

27.0

233

Sexual exploitation

27

100.0

0

0

27

20

74.1

7

25.9

27

Incest

33

86.8

3

7.9

36

31

81.6

7

18.4

38

Corrupting children

21

100.0

0

0

21

16

76.2

5

23.8

21

Luring a child

544

99.3

0

0

544

469

85.6

79

14.4

548

Publication, etc. of intimate images without consent

186

47.9

198

51.0

384

344

88.7

44

11.3

388

Making sexually explicit material available to a child

73

100.0

0

0

73

57

78.1

16

21.9

73

Voyeurism

51

34.2

97

65.1

148

118

79.2

31

20.8

149

*Non-exhaustive selection of sexual offences.
** Certain data are missing because the age of some of the victims is unknown.
The data presented are preliminary.
Source: Ministère de la Sécurité publique (2021). Criminalité au Québec - Infractions sexuelles en 2019, [online], Québec, Ministère de la Sécurité publique (Retrieved on  January 13, 2022).

In Québec, in 2019, the majority of victims of police-reported sexual offences were minors (62.5%). The majority of sexual assault victims were adults (54.4%), while victims of other sexual offences were almost exclusively minors (90.8%, see Chart 1). Females accounted for the vast majority of victims of sexual assault (88.3 %) and other sexual offences (82.0%)3.

Chart 1 - Distribution of victims of sexual offences, by age, Québec, 2019

 

Source : Ministère de la Sécurité publique (2021). Criminalité au Québec - Infractions sexuelles en 2019, [online], Québec, Ministère de la Sécurité publique (Retrieved on  January 13, 2022).

Since 2017, police services have reported a major increase in reports of sexual assault in Québec, particularly due to the #MeToo movement that emerged in fall 2017. Thousands of people have used this hashtag on social media to indicate that they have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime4.

According to data reported by police services, sexual offence rates have risen substantially in Québec since 2010, going from 68.4 per 100 000 population in 2010 to 109.4 per 100 000 population in 2019. Sexual assault rates have also increased, from 43.1 per 100 000 population in 2014 to 67.4 per 100 000 population in 2019 (see Table 2). The difference in sexual assault rates between women and men increased as well between 2014 and 2019, by 61% and 34%, respectively3,5. Among all offences against the person, other sexual offences were the category that had the largest increase in 10 years, from 15.2 per 100 000 population in 2010 to 42.0 per 100 000 population in 2019. More specifically, the offences of sexual interference and luring a child with a computer were the two fastest growing categories5.

Table 2 - Change in the rates of sexual offences, sexual assaults (levels 1 to 3) and other sexual offences, Québec, 2010, 2014 and 2019

  2010 2014 2019p
Rate1 N Rate N Rate N

Total, sexual offences

68.4

5 324

64.0

5 142

109.4

9 283

Sexual assaults (levels 1 to 3)

53.2

4 204

43.1

3 732

67.4

5 722

Other sexual offences

15.2

1 120

20.9*

1 855

42.0

3 561

1Rate per 100 000 population
p The 2019 data are preliminary
*In 2014, with the enactment of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (S.C. 2014, c. 25), several offences were added to the other sexual offences category, leading to an increase in the number of offences included in that category.
Source: Ministère de la Sécurité publique (2021). Criminalité au Québec - Infractions sexuelles en 2019, [online], Québec, Ministère de la Sécurité publique (Retrieved on January 13, 2022).

In Québec, in 2019, the majority of victims of police-reported sexual offences knew the accused (81.4%). The person was an acquaintance in 21.5% of cases, followed by a current or former intimate partner (18.5%), a member of the immediate family (13.8%), a stranger (10.9%), and a friend (9.9%). In addition, according to police-reported data, males were the most prevalent accused perpetrators of sexual offences (94.9%). People aged 12 to 17 were the age group with the highest rate of accused persons (251.4 per 100 000 population). Sexual assaults were committed more frequently by minors 12 to 17 years of age (114.7 per 100 000 population) than by adults (31.8 per 100 000 population)3.

However, it is important to note that actual rates of sexual assault are largely underestimated by police service data. In fact, according to data from the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces in 2018 and the General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization in 2019, only 5% to 6% of sexual assaults are reported to the police1,6.

Filing reports with the police

Several factors may explain, at least in part, why sexual assault is one of the crimes least reported to the police. First of all, the low reporting rate might be affected by the fact that sexual assaults rarely result in physical injuries or rarely involve a weapon, whereas these two factors are the most likely predictor of crimes being reported to the police.

Reasons cited by sexual assault victims for not reporting sexual assaults to the police include: thinking that the incident is minor or not important enough, that it is a personal or private matter, not wanting to deal with the police or the judicial process, fearing that the perpetrator will not be held responsible, fearing that they will not be believed, or thinking that they will be held responsible for their own victimization6.

One in five victims of sexual assault report that another person (abuser, friends, family members) made them feel responsible for their own victimization1.


Main sources

Statistics that can be used to document the prevalence, change over time and characteristics of sexual assault come from three main sources:

  1. Youth protection service data;
  2. Police service data;
  3. Population survey data.

1. Youth protection service data are based on cases of sexual abuse of minors reported to youth protection services over a given period, usually one year. While these data provide information on the number of sexual assault cases handled by youth protection services, they represent only a small proportion of all cases of sexual abuse against children and youth because not all sexual abuse cases are disclosed or reported to youth protection services and not all reported cases are substantiated. Youth protection service data are derived primarily from the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS) and Québec Incidence Study on situations investigated by child protective services (QIS).

2. Police service data are based on sexual offences recorded annually by police services when a victim or other person contacts the police. While these data provide information on the number of Criminal Code sexual offences that are processed by these services, they represent only a small proportion of all sexual assaults in the population, as not all sexual assaults are reported to the police. In the 2019 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization, only 6% of Canadians who had been sexually assaulted said that they had reported the incident to the police6. Police service data are derived primarily from the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR 2.2) and are reported by Statistics Canada and the Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec.

3. Population survey data are usually based on large, representative samples of a population that provide a more accurate estimate of the prevalence of sexual assault, compared to cases reported to the police or other authorities(7). These surveys usually ask respondents about their victimization experiences anonymously. However, a portion of sexual assaults are not reported in surveys, and certain vulnerable populations may  be under-represented, leading to an underestimation of the real problem(7). Population survey data are derived from national surveys, such as the General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization and the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS), as well as from certain scientific studies.

Figure 1 - Prevalence of sexual assault, by different sources of data

 

*In Québec, under the Multi-sectoral Agreement concerning children who are victims of sexual abuse or physical ill-treatment, or whose physical health is threatened by the lack of appropriate care, the police inform the Direction de la protection de la jeunesse when situations involving the sexual abuse of minors are reported to it, and vice versa.
Source : Baril, K., et J. Laforest (2018). « Chapitre 3 : Les agressions sexuelles », in Rapport québécois sur la violence et la santé, Montréal, p. 56‑95. Institut national de santé publique du Québec. (Based on : Jewkes, R., P. Sen et C. Garcia-Moreno (2002). « Sexual violence ». In E. G. Krug, L. L. Dalhberg, A. Z. Mercy et R. Lozano-Ascencio [eds.], World report on violence and health. P.147-181, Geneva: World Health Organization (Retrieved on April 19 2022)).

 

References

  1. Cotter, A., et L. Savage (2019). Gender-based violence and unwanted sexual behaviour in Canada, 2018: Initial findings from the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, [online], Statistique Canada, « Juristat » (Retrieved on February 28, 2022).
  2. Cotter, A. (2021). Intimate partner violence in Canada, 2018: An overview, [online], Statistique Canada, « Juristat » (Retrieved on February 28, 2022).
  3. Ministère de la Sécurité publique (2021). Criminalité au Québec - Infractions sexuelles en 2019, [online], Québec, Ministère de la Sécurité publique (Retrieved on January 13, 2022).
  4. Ministère de la Sécurité publique (2017). Criminalité au Québec - Infractions sexuelles en 2017, [online], Québec, Ministère de la Sécurité publique (Retrieved on January 13, 2022).
  5. Ministère de la Sécurité publique (2021). Criminalité au Québec - Principales tendances 2019, [online], Québec, Ministère de la Sécurité publique (Retrieved on January 13, 2022).
  6. Cotter, A. (2021). Criminal victimization in Canada, [online], Statistique Canada, « Juristat » (Retrieved on February 28, 2022).
  7. World Health Organization, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medecine (2012). Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: Taking action and generating evidence, [online], Geneva, World Health Organization (Retrieved on February 28, 2022).

Author: Maude Lachapelle, Scientific Advisor, INSPQ
In collaboration with: Dominique Gagné, Scientific Advisor, INSPQ, and Dave Poitras, Specialized Scientific Advisor, INSPQ

Last update: 

May-12-22