Children and Youth as Victims of Violent Crime 1, 2

According to a subset of 155 police services representing 98% of the Canadian population in 2008, overall, children and youth under 18 years of age are more at risk of physical and sexual assault than adults. For every 100,000 children and youth who resided in the areas policed by the police services reporting to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) survey in 2008, 1,111 were victims of a violent crime, including physical and sexual assault. This rate is 1.5 times higher than that of the 18-24 demographic.

Rates for children and youth were 1.5 times higher than young adults for sexual assault (201 versus 130 per 100,000), and the physical assault rate for youth aged 15-17 is approaching that of young adults (ages 18-24) (1,572 per 100,000 teens versus 1,694 per 100,000 young adults).

In 2008, among children under 18 years of age, girls were at greatest risk of sexual assault whereas the rate for physical assault was higher for boys. Girls were almost five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than boys (337 versus 72 per 100,000 population). The rate of physical assault among boys was nearly 1.5 times higher than the rate for girls (707 versus 525 per 100,000).

According to the subset of 155 police services, children's risk of violent victimization increases with age. In 2008, for every 100,000 toddlers under the age of three, police reported 162 victims of violent crime. Rates grew to 422 per 100,000 children aged 6 to 8 years, and then to 2,710 per 100,000 youth aged 15 to 17 years. This trend is not surprising given that children are increasingly exposed to others and acquire more independence as they grow up, increasing their risk of victimization.

The rate of family violence against persons aged 0 to 17 was 214 per 100,000 in 2009 (UCR2). Almost one third of solved incidents were committed by a family member, 54% by a friend or acquaintance and 15% by a stranger.

Female children and youth are more likely to be victims of family violence than their male counterparts, a finding largely driven by sexual offence victimizations. In 2009, girls under 18 were sexually assaulted by a family member at a rate that was more than four times the rate for boys (113 versus 28 per 100,000).

Another form of victimization experienced by children and youth is witnessing violence. According to the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS), 394,000 spousal violence victims reported that children saw or heard this violence. This represented 33% of all victims of spousal violence. 

Overall, female victims of spousal violence in the five years prior to the 2004 survey were more likely to report that children saw or heard the violence (40%) than male victims of spousal violence (25%).

Among all spousal violence relationships where the victim reported that children saw or heard violence during the five-year period prior to the survey, 40% reported that they feared for their life and 44% reported that they were physically injured.


  • Beattie, K. 2005. "Children witnessing family violence in the home" in Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2005. K. AuCoin (ed.) Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.
  • Brzozowski, J. 2007. "Family violence against children and youth" in Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. L. Ogrodnik (ed.) Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.
  • Ogrodnick, L. 2010. Child and youth victims of police-reported violent crime, 2008. Catalogue no. 85F0033M, no. 23. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

  • 1 Information on violence against children and youth in this fact sheet is based on data collected through the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) survey.  These data reflect both physical and sexual assault offences that came to the attention of the police and which were substantiated by the police. In 2008, the UCR2 survey collected complete and reliable data from 155 police services across Canada, which represented 98% of the Canadian population.
  • 2 Information on children witnessing family violence in the home is based on data from the 2004 and 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization. Statistics Canada, Family Violence in Canada - A statistical profile 2009.
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