Domestic violence

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services


Gender bias issue in reporting about violence against women

You wrote several times in March and April to complain that “the gender bias issue at CBC Radio 1 in Toronto…has not been adequately addressed.” You said that programs “clearly misrepresent the dangers when reporting women as victims and men as perpetrators.” Esther Enkin, the Executive Editor of CBC News, responded that she did not share your assessment. She agreed that men and women should be treated “equitably” but went on to say “that does not mean that both men and women must be referred to in every story we broadcast.” You were unsatisfied with her response and asked for a review.


It is clear from research that, statistically, reports of “violence” in domestic situations are not dissimilar between men and women. However, it would be misleading to end the subject there. In a report from the Department of Justice Family Violence Initiative we find this:

The most complete information about the extent of spousal abuse in Canada comes from the 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS). This victimization survey asked almost 26,000 women and men in Canada about their experiences of abuse including experiences of violence and emotional abuse in their current or previous marriages and common law partnerships. According to the GSS, women and men experience similar rates of both violence and emotional abuse in their relationships. The survey found, however, that the violence experienced by women is tended to be more severe - and more often repeated - than the violence directed at men. For example, compared to men, women were:

  • six times more likely to report being sexually assaulted
  • five times more likely to report being choked
  • five times more likely to require medical attention, as a result of an assault
  • three times more likely to be physically injured by an assault
  • more than twice as likely to report being beaten
  • almost twice as likely to report being threatened with, or having a gun or knife used against them
  • much more likely to fear for their lives, or be afraid for their children as a result of the violence
  • more likely to have sleeping problems, suffer depression or anxiety attacks, or have lowered self-esteem as a result of being abused, and
  • more likely to report repeated victimization.

Some researchers have noted that the survey also found that women experience higher levels of certain types of emotional abuse. Compared to men, women:

  • were four times more likely to report being threatened, harmed, or having someone close to them threatened or harmed
  • were four times more likely to report being denied access to family income
  • were more than twice as likely to report having their property damaged or their possessions destroyed
  • reported a higher incidence of being isolated from family and friends, and
  • reported a higher rate of name-calling and put downs.

Homicide data reveals that women are also at higher risk of being killed by their husbands. In the past two decades, three times as many wives were killed by their husbands, as husbands killed by wives.

While it is correct that CBC News should not ignore the subject of violence against men, it is not inappropriate to highlight the substantially increased danger that women face in those circumstances.


The items as presented do not violate CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman