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2/3 of Canadians Believe that Sexual Assault Claims are True

Canadian Women’s Foundation study reveals that the majority of Canadian women and men believe survivors

Toronto, ON – May 2, 2016 – Amidst several high-profile sexual assault cases over the past year that challenged the credibility of women that report sexual assault, a new study from the Canadian Women’s Foundation reveals that two-thirds of Canadians (67%) believe the majority of sexual assault claims are true. Timed with the launch of its annual May-long Campaign to End Violence, the survey also indicates that both women (75%) and men (59%) tend to believe those who come forward are telling the truth.

Sexual assault refers to all incidents of unwanted sexual activity, including sexual attacks and touching such as unwanted kissing or fondling. Each year in Canada, there are close to 553,000 incidents of sexual assault committed against women.  Yet, sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in Canada. Less than 10% of cases are brought to the police, as victims generally don’t come forward.

“It’s encouraging to see that Canadians believe the majority of sexual assault claims,” says Anuradha Dugal, Director of Violence Prevention at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “Over the past year, sexual assault has finally been brought to the attention of mainstream media and the general public as a serious issue. However, the credibility of women who have come forward has been tested in several high-profile cases, which could lead Canadians to take a more skeptical view of sexual assault claims. We’re pleased to see the opposite.”

According to the survey, only 1% of Canadians believe that the majority of sexual assault claims are false, and 7% believe they are exaggerated. The remainder of the respondents — one quarter (24%) — simply don’t know what to believe, which is higher amongst younger Canadians aged 18-34 (31%) compared to those aged 55+ (20%).

Who is held responsible for sexual assault?

When it comes to placing blame for sexual assault, Canadians overwhelmingly blame the perpetrator (73%), with only 2% blaming the victim.

The top reasons that respondents believe that sexual assault is the fault of the perpetrator include: the perpetrator must have thought they could get away with it (61%), the perpetrator believed he/she has a right to the victim’s body (54%) and the perpetrator must have believed that sexual assault isn’t a big deal (47%).

Dugal says: “When it comes to sexual assault, the focus is often put on the victim’s role in the incident instead of the perpetrator who committed the act. The fact remains that sexual assault is a big problem in our country and we need to do more to end violence against women. This starts with treating sexual assault as a serious offense and ensuring that victims have the support they need to come forward.”

A call to Canadians to help end violence against women

The Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Campaign to End Violence, which runs throughout the month of May, raises awareness and funds for women who have experienced abuse. The funds raised help more than 450 shelters for abused women and their children, and community violence prevention programs across Canada that break the cycle of violence.

As part of the campaign, the Canadian Women’s Foundation is encouraging Canadians to join in their vision to build GEN1, the first generation in Canada that lives free from violence against women and experience real gender equality.

*Methodology:

From April 13 to April 14, 2016, an online survey was conducted among 1,507 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.