Go figure – According to CBC News, Statistics Canada has again published findings of a study based on stalking throughout Canada. You can read the report (published in 2009) here.
They say that more stalking happens on P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island) than in any other province, and claim that rates tend to be lower in the western part of the country.
How can that be when P.E.I. has a population of 141,000 residents in an area of 5,684 sq. kilometres. Certainly, there must be more stalking in Vancouver or Calgary or Edmonton than in the entire province of P.E.I.?
My hunch is that perhaps the reason for such skewed figures is that the police and courts take stalking more seriously on P.E.I. because they have the time and resources to do so.
How about in cities such as Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver or Calgary… do the police truly take reports by stalking victims seriously?
CBC News said the study on criminal harassment covers a period from 2000 to 2009, and demonstrated that the eastern provinces of Canada tended to have more reports of stalkers to police, with above-average rates in P.E.I., New Brunswick and Ontario. The highest rate in Canada was in the Northwest Territories (a population of only 43,529).
Manitoba had the lowest rate, under half the national average. Study author Shelly Milligan noted, however, there seemed to be some correlation between rates of violent crime and rates of criminal harassment.
“Among the provinces, the lowest rate in 2009 was in Manitoba… the province with the second highest overall violent crime rate,” wrote Milligan.
“In contrast, Prince Edward Island… reported the highest rate of criminal harassment, yet was among those with the lowest overall violent crime rate.”
My question is – How many actual stalking victims participated in this so-called research study? Did Statistics Canada gather their information from police departments across Canada (highly unlikely), womens shelters, or just a small sample of people based on a telephone survey?
Whatever approach they took, Statistics Canada has likely only wasted more taxpayers dollars in churning out another useless study, based on a limited approach, instead of the Federal Government allocating their resources to rather educate the police and courts more on (how to) prosecute stalking and criminal harassment. The first thing police agencies could adopt is a protocol on how to resolve a stalking report from a victim (quickly, before violence occurs).
What is even more interesting is they say that victims of criminal harassment were rarely injured. In 2009, only two per cent suffered physical injury, all minor cases. What about the mental and emotional damage that stalking causes? Obviously they could not survey those victims who were already dead, maimed, or in hiding because of their stalker.
As I read on through the CBC News report, it stated that jail time was uncommon. Most Canadians found guilty of stalking get probation.
Jail time was part of the sentence in only 26 per cent of cases, and those sentences were short. The median length was 31 days. In violent cases, the median length was 75 days, the report says. Only 75 days? It is no wonder that stalkers just keep on stalking their victims – a couple months in jail is not even a real consequence to a stalker.
Probation sentences, on the other hand, were relatively lengthy, with a median length of 545 days. For violent cases, it was 365 days.
Wendy Verhoek-Oftedahl, community development co-ordinator for P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention, thinks stronger sentences might lower the numbers.
“Show offenders that this is unacceptable behaviour by the sanctions, and reduce the likelihood of these behaviours in the future,” said Verhoek-Oftedahl.
P.E.I. Attorney General Doug Currie wondered if Islanders are more willing to report stalking following the province’s awareness programs around family violence.
“Obviously our objective is to have no reports, in other words, it doesn’t happen,” said Currie.
“But the fact that people are coming forward is certainly positive.”
Milligan wrote that the report likely underestimates the true rates of criminal harassment in Canada, citing one study that found only three in 10 cases are reported. I would agree on that, in the sense that if the police refuse to take a report, or turn a stalking victim away and tell them there is nothing the police can do, then of course there will be fewer reports.
In June 2005, Statistics Canada, for the first time, measured stalking through the General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS). That analysis detailed the prevalence of stalking in Canada, describing victim characteristics, victim-offender relationships, types of stalking experienced, violent stalking relationships, help-seeking behaviour of stalking victims, emotional consequences of stalking, reasons for reporting or not reporting the stalking to the police, types of charges laid against stalkers, and the use and breach of restraining orders. The report is titled Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2005.
It is interesting to note that in that 2005 Study, a sample of approximately 24,000 men and women, 15 years of age and over were surveyed. The conclusion was that overall, in Canada, it is estimated that 9% of people, 15 years of age and over, had been stalked in the five years prior to the survey. This represents over 2.3 million Canadians. More than one in ten females (11%) or more than 1.4 million women reported being stalked in the preceding five years in a way that caused them to fear for their safety or the safety of someone known to them. Just under 900,000 men experienced stalking and the resulting fear during the same time period, which represents 7% of the male population.
Victims of stalking (and domestic abuse) that were interviewed claim that the most frequently contacted services used by both female (and male victims) was a counselor or psychologist (28%), followed by a crisis center or crisis line (10%), a community or family center (9%) and police-based or court-based victim services (5%). Transition homes and women’s centres were used by 11% and 8% of women victims, respectively, and 3% of men turned to a men’s center or support group for help.
So if only 5% of victims turn to the police for help, what does that tell us about the reception they usually get from the police agencies across Canada? Probably not a supportive or helpful welcome.
What contradicts the study that was just released by Statistics Canada are the previous statistics gathered and outlined in the 2005 report(the statistics gathered were from the same period from 2000-2009 and the first study prior to 2005).
The 2005 study states that the estimated provincial rates of stalking for women and men ranged from 4% to 13%. Women in Alberta (13%), Nova Scotia (12%), Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia (each reporting 11%) had the highest rates of stalking for women over the past five years.
For men, stalking rates were highest in Nova Scotia (9%), Manitoba(8%) and Alberta (7%). Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest rates of stalking relative to the other provinces for both men (4%) and women (9%).
The report from 2005 does not even mention P.E.I.
The 2005 report also mentions that stalkers with a previous intimate relationship with the victim were more likely to be violent toward the victim or the victim’s property, and were more likely to make threats than were stalkers without a prior intimate relationship with their victim. Respondents were asked to state that since the stalking behavior had commenced whether or not their stalker had ever physically intimidated them or threatened them with violence. Results from the GSS indicate that of those victims stalked by an ex-spouse, more than half were verbally threatened or physically intimidated (54% of female victims and 48% of male victims pursued by an ex-spouse). One third of female victims pursued by an ex-boyfriend (34%) were also verbally threatened or physically intimidated.
I would think that whatever current findings this so-called current Statistics Canada research project has produced, should be subjected to further scrutiny.
Regardless of either of the reports and their findings, what does this tell us?
The police and courts in Canada are not doing enough to eradicate stalking and criminal harassment. Perhaps if they, themselves, experienced what it is like to be stalked, pursued, harassed and abused, their attitudes towards pyschopathic and sociopathic stalkers would take a different view.
So perhaps stalking victims have a few choices to make a difference here in how cases are handled. First, we should declare a National Report Your Stalker to the Police Day. Secondly, we could overwhelm the court system with applications for restraining orders and peace bonds, as many victims as possible coming forth within a short period (one week to one month) to file their applications. That will certainly send a message. Thirdly, we could start (really) exposing each member of the police force, and every judge, who refuses to listen to our pleas for assistance, by writing about our experiences in dealing with them, what their lame responses were to your report of being stalked, and the final result (or lack thereof).
In giving these perspectives, I welcome you to contact me if you have experienced disappointment with the legal system and your stalking situation in Canada. I would like to post your story to benefit others and make a move towards the change in attitudes towards this horrific crime of stalking and criminal harassment.
Guest bloggers, posters, writers – anonymous or with your name attached – we all need to listen to your story, so that our voices can be heard and taken more seriously. We need to hold the justice system accountable and make sure the laws surrounding criminal harassment are enforced, and stalkers are prosecuted more effectively.
Instead of relying on some Statistics Canada study to speak for us (which the judicial system and police likely are not going to read anyhow)…
Until next time… keep safe and sane…