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Gender-Based, Intimate Partner, and Family Violence

The Issue 

Gender-based violence is a pervasive violation of human rights. Half of women in Canada over the age of 16 have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence, often by someone they know. Girls, especially Indigenous girls as young as 13, are targeted and exploited by human trafficking. Gender-based, intimate partner, and family violence affects people across all walks of life. Most cases go unreported for fear of stigma, shame, inaction by authorities, and further risk of danger. Living with, or in fear of, violence also impacts physical, mental and emotional health and can shatter employment and income security. With nearly 480,000 women across the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area living on low incomes, it also means many are forced into impossible decisions: remaining in violent homes — often with children — or living in poverty and at risk of homelessness.  The pandemic has had a devasting impact on this issue. Data reveals that family violence – which was already high – has skyrocketed, as evidenced in the sharp increase in call volume experienced by Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline. 


of women in Canada over the age of 16 have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence, often by someone they know

1 in 3

women endure violence from an intimate partner, and every six days a woman is killed by an intimate partner


number of calls received in the early months of the pandemic by The Assaulted Women’s Helpline, which provides free, confidential, and anonymous counselling for abused women in Ontario

How we help

United Way aims to address the full spectrum of gender-based, intimate partner, and family violence through supports that offer a safe place and a clear path ahead for survivors of violence. Our approach is to consider trauma-informed and culturally tailored services connected to a system of wrap-around supports that include immediate safety and crisis intervention, counselling, and healing for individuals and groups. We also support programs that empower the lives of survivors by providing opportunities for housing, employment and social connections. Prevention efforts to interrupt harmful social norms will also be included along with collaborative service coordination and advocacy work to affect systemic change and public policy development.

For me, the biggest challenge was to understand that I didn’t do anything to deserve emotional abuse from my husband. It wasn’t my fault. I went back to school and became a counsellor. Today, I work at the same United Way agency that gave me a safe space when I was vulnerable. I’m very grateful. Every day when I open the door, I feel like saying ‘thank you’ for allowing me to do this every day. Leaving an abusive relationship is a difficult decision, but when you look back, you will feel good. You will feel like it was the right decision.

Vilma, United Way program participant 

Here’s how your local love helped create a safe and violence-free space for individuals in vulnerable circumstances last year:  

Closeup shot of two women holding hands in comfort


Individuals received support to live free from violence or to reduce the risk of violence

Closeup shot of a women and two children playing with alphabet blocks on floor


Women and children accessed immediate safety supports so they could live free of violence

A women is meeting with a support worker in a office


Women and children gained stability through connections to housing, education, employment, settlement, legal, financial and other wrap-around supports

May 14, 2019

How one Ontario woman finally escaped her abusive husband

Domestic violence is rampant in Canada and hard to escape. But the justice system is evolving to better serve survivors