Charges are less likely to be laid in cases of partner violence when the two people involved are in a same-sex relationship, according to a new study from Statistics Canada.

StatCan found that there were 651,484 violent incidents involving intimate partners reported to police agencies across Canada between 2009 and 2017. More than 22,000 of those – or about three per cent – were between people in same-sex relationships.

However, only 65 per cent of those complaints resulted in charges. For cases involving people in opposite-sex relationships, the charge rate was 82 per cent. Similar gaps were seen when the numbers were broken down by sex, and the trend was significantly more pronounced in rural areas than urban centres. Charge rates have generally been rising over the course of the decade.

One partial explanation for the low charge rates is that alleged victims of same-sex partner violence are more likely to ask police not to take action against their partners. According to the study, nineteen per cent of male complainants and 21 per cent of female complainants in same-sex situations requested that charges not be laid, compared to 12 per cent of male complainants and seven per cent of female complainants in opposite-sex situations.

It is believed that a significant number of partner violence incidents are never reported to police. StatCan says this may be even more prominent among cases of same-sex partner violence, because victims may be hesitant to contact police due to prior poor experiences or concerns about homophobic reactions.

The number of same-sex reports declined significantly during the first half of the decade before starting to trend upward in 2015, loosely mirroring trends in opposite-sex reports.

While women are significantly more likely to be the victims of police-reported incidents of opposite-sex partner violence – 82 per cent of the time between 2009 and 2017 – men are more likely to report being victims of violence from a same-sex partner. Fifty-five per cent of the 22,323 complaints of same-sex partner violence during the study period came from men.

Men are also more violent when attacking same-sex partners than opposite-sex ones, with proportionally more charges relating to weapons or serious injuries in cases where their victims are male.

The opposite trend was found in women. Twelve per cent of women accused of same-sex partner violence were accused of committing a serious assault and/or using a weapon – about half the percentage for women accused of attacking an opposite-sex partner.