CALGARY -- Approximately 43 per cent of the province’s population have experienced sexual abuse in their lifetime, according to new statistics.

"With an estimated 1.8 million individuals in Alberta experiencing sexual abuse in their lifetime, this research shows us that sexual abuse is a health and safety issue of epidemic proportions," said Debra Tomlinson, CEO of Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) in a press release.

The AASAS surveyed 1,512 adult Albertans and found 45 per cent of them had been sexually abused before.

Based on their findings, the group estimates 1,477,846 adults and 324,972 children in Alberta have been sexually abused.

According to the telephone study:

  • 38 per cent of respondents reported being abused both during childhood as well as in adulthood
  • 34 per cent reported being abused while they were under 18
  • 28 per cent were first assaulted as adults.

"Understanding the problem of sexual violence is key to finding solutions,"  said Tomlinson. "The experience of sexual violence is linked to some of our most serious health and social issues like, mental illness, human trafficking, suicide, homelessness and domestic violence."

The survey found females are more likely to be sexually assaulted than males and, with consideration for the age of victims, the rate of sexual assault against males decreases while the rate of sexual assault against females continue.

"Research is important, and our government will continue to address the prevalence of sexual abuse in our communities," said Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney. "We have recently passed Alberta’s version of Clare’s Law. We remain committed to providing supports and services to survivors of sexual violence."

Until now, the most recent data on the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Canada was from 36 years ago. The report is modelled on the previous report but the study was expanded to include information on sexual assault throughout a lifespan–under and over the age of 18, along with combined data.

"People who experience sexual abuse are our family members, our friends and our colleagues," said Tomlinson. "And each and every one of us has a role to play in ensuring survivors get support."

The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services noted that these findings do not measure the amount of sexual assault incidents that occur in the province.

Resources for survivors of sexual assault is available at Victim Resources – Sexual Assault and Violence.