News / Toronto

Four in 10 GTA residents blame victims of abuse: Poll

Interval House commissioned the poll to gauge attitudes about domestic abuse after high-profile cases sparked discussion.

A woman opens the curtains at her apartment after leaving a program run by Interval House that allows victims of abuse to live in subsidized housing for a year to build up financial breathing room.

Torstar News Service

A woman opens the curtains at her apartment after leaving a program run by Interval House that allows victims of abuse to live in subsidized housing for a year to build up financial breathing room.

Four in 10 GTA residents blame victims of abuse for what happens to them if they decide to stay in an abusive relationship, according to a poll commissioned by a Toronto’s women’s shelter.

Interval House decided to gauge attitudes about domestic abuse after high-profile cases of abuse sparked a public conversation that, all too often, put the blame on victims, said Paula Del Cid, residential program supervisor at Interval House.

The Angus Reid Forum online poll asked 868 Ontarians if they agreed with the statement: “A person is responsible for the consequences if they stay in an abusive relationship.” Forty per cent of GTA residents and 37.5 per cent of Ontarians either agreed or strongly agreed. 

“Obviously we do not agree with that,” said Del Cid. “Instead of saying, ‘Why didn’t she leave, or why didn’t she report abuse,’ we should be asking, ‘Why did he abuse her? Why did he think it was acceptable behaviour to treat another human being this way?’”

Women stay because they can’t afford to leave, because they’re afraid of retribution for their children or themselves or because they believe their partner will actually change, said Del Cid. 

They may be afraid that others won’t believe them if they go, she said. Interval House asked respondents about that, too. 

Asked if they believe, “Women can lie or exaggerate about experiencing domestic violence,” two-thirds of Ontarians said yes, indicating they either strongly believe or somewhat believe that’s true.

“They have a misconception we should be questioning the victim instead of questioning the perpetrator,” Del Cid said.

The point of the poll question wasn’t to say a victim has never ever exaggerated or lied, but to let people know that when women fear their experience of abuse will be doubted it’s harder for them to leave the situation, Del Cid said.

“A person is responsible for the consequences if they stay in an abusive relationship.”

— Ontario: 37.4% agree 

— GTA: 40% agree 

— Men: 46.3% agree 

— Women: 28.9% agree 

“Women can lie or exaggerate about experiencing domestic violence.”

— Ontario: 66% agree

— GTA: 64.9% agree 

— Men: 69.3% agree 

— Women: 62.9% agree

Source: Angus Reid Forum

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