One in five men in Alberta said they witnessed abusive behaviour towards women in the past year, with 61 per cent reporting they tried to intervene, according to a survey commissioned by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.

Of the 1,478 men surveyed across the province, 97 per cent said violence and abuse against women is a concern to them. That's up from 95 per cent in 2012.

However, some survey results indicate there is still room for improvement, with 61 per cent saying they found it hard to understand why women stay in an abusive relationship. 

"We tend to oversimplify because that makes it easier for us to process that," said Sue Tomney, CEO of the YWCA of Calgary, whose services include those for women dealing with domestic violence. 

"We can say, 'Well, just walk away, what's wrong with you?' There are so many other reasons why a woman thinks twice before leaving an abusive relationship."

Tomney is pleased with the responses that show progress in men's attitudes, especially in light of high-profile sexual assault court cases like the one against ex-CBC host Jian Ghomeshi or the review of a judgement by Federal Court Justice Robin Camp

Sue Tomney

YWCA of Calgary CEO Sue Tomney says attitudes about women who stay with violent partners is not changing fast enough. 'There are so many other reasons why a woman thinks twice before leaving an abusive relationship.' (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

Jonathan Hutton is a clinical supervisor at the YWCA. He says involving men in the conversation can help prevent cases of violence.  

"It's about our children," said Hutton, "I'm a pretty passionate person. I have a lot of emotion about this subject. It is about a better a day, a better future, it has to always be on front of the agenda for me ahead of any other issue.

"And we will get there." 

The survey results were revealed ahead of International Women's Day on March 8th.


  • An earlier version of this story said the study was commissioned by the YWCA of Calgary. In fact, it was commissioned by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.
    Mar 08, 2016 11:22 AM MT