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Nearly half of Ontario men believe victims of abuse are to blame

The Window Project, a store display that highlighted the issue of domestic violence. YouTube screengrab.

Nearly half of Ontario men believe victims of abuse are to blame if they choose to stay in a violent relationship.

That statistic was released by Interval House on Tuesday. Interval House, the first centre for abused women and children in Canada, commissioned the survey after several high-profile abuse cases made the news.

According to the survey conducted by Angus Reid, more than 37 per cent of Ontarians believe that a person is responsible for the consequences if they choose to stay in a violent relationship. This belief is higher among men (46 per cent) than women.

“There are many reasons that a woman might choose to stay with her abuser, or to keep in touch with him,” Arlene McCalla, executive co-director at Interval House, said in a statement.

“Often women don’t leave because they fear they will be blamed, not believed, or they have internalized that it is somehow their fault. Ultimately the person responsible for the abuse is the abuser.”

The same survey also found that even if women do come forward, 66 per cent of Ontario residents believe they can be lying or exaggerating. This, despite the fact that 43.5 per cent of people surveyed know someone who has been abusive towards a romantic partner.

“This statistic is especially troubling,” McCalla said.

“It can be terrifying for a woman to come forward, and our first job as supporters is to believe what she is saying, and to understand that leaving an abuser is a difficult decision and a potentially dangerous action.”

McCalla, and Interval House, have launched a social media campaign to encourage people to talk about the survey. For every share, retweet and mention of the hashtag #NotHerFault, Wyse Meter Solutions will donate $5.

The Angus Reid poll was conducted online from Feb. 10 to Feb. 12, and 868 randomly selected adult Ontario residents responded. The survey has a margin of error of 3.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.