07/11/2013 12:40 EDT | Updated 09/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Violence Against Women Costs You This Much Money


Intimate partner violence and sexual assault of women in Canada hurts the economy and no comprehensive national policy is currently in place to address the problem. These were the key findings of The Gap in the Gender Gap: Violence Against Women in Canada report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, released on Thursday.

Study author Kate McInturff reveals that these two forms of violence against women comes at a cost of $334 per person, putting it on about the same level as the cost of illegal drug use and smoking which is costing Canada an estimated $262 per person and $541 per person, respectively.

The economic losses for these crimes come in the form of costs to the justice system, costs to the victim, and costs to third parties. For example, sexual assault cases would cost the police anywhere from $10,320 to $51,225 per incident depending on the level.

On average, criminal court cases cost $1,408 per case with the average legal aid expenditure pegged at $811 per criminal court case. The justice system also incurs expenses during prosecution, incarceration, conditional sentences, probation, and civil protection.

The financial cost to victims is also great, the study finds, since many are forced to seek medical care in terms of doctor visits and hospitalization and suffer from mental health issues. These physical and mental injuries can lead to productivity losses like lost wages for female victims amounting to $136 per day and lost education which has a dollar value of $39.41 per school day (college or university).

Third parties like social services and employers also bear the brunt of sexual violence against women in Canada. Crisis lines, support centers, and victim services spend $40, $450, and $453 per incident respectively. Employers lose their employee victim's output which is 5.2 per cent of the total of lost wages. Tardiness and distraction and absences are also hurtful to their bottom line.

McInturff writes that the "difficulty of collecting data about violence against women has been a barrier to progress in ending [it]." But she also reveals that "the data that does exist tells us three things very clearly: this problem is big, it comes at a high cost, and we are making little or no progress in putting a stop to it."

As far as federal spending for programs and services related to intimate partner violence and sexual assault goes, the most recent data was for fiscal year 2011-2012 and it paints a very grim picture: McInturff found that the federal government spent only $79.9 million which when divided on a per person basis "works out to $2.77 per person."

Violence against women does not only scar the victims. This most recent CCPA study and previous ones done in other countries (covered in this column by Leah Eichler) show that these crimes can have a detrimental effect on a country's gross national product. It is as much an economic and business problem as it is a personal one.

To put an end to violence against women, the study recommends conducting "regular, sensitive, detailed surveys of incidence of sexual assault and intimate partner measure the impact and effectiveness of public policies and programs over time" and "a coherent, coordinated, well-resourced national action plan to address" the problem, among others.

By Nicel Jane Avellana, contributor at r/ally, the mobile collaboration platform that lets you socialize your goals.

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