Nearly one in ten Alberta men believes it is acceptable to physically assault a woman if she does something to anger him, according to a survey measuring men's attitudes toward domestic violence.

The survey, conducted by Leger Marketing for the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, asked 1,000 Alberta men aged 18 and over various questions about domestic violence and violence against women and girls.

The results indicate that men have a long way to go on some issues, including violence in the home.

According to the report:

  • 52 per cent of respondents agree with the statement that women could leave a violent relationship if they really wanted to.
  • 16 per cent agree that domestic violence is a private matter to be handled in the family.
  • 13 per cent agree that domestic violence is not as serious if it results from people getting so angry that they temporarily lose control.
  • Only 39 per cent agree that a parent slapping a child's face should be considered family violence.

As well, a whopping 40 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: "If a woman wears provocative clothing, she's putting herself at risk for rape."

Jan Reimer, provincial co-ordinator for the ACWS, said she has "mixed reviews" for the data.

"In some ways (I'm) quite heartened in terms of what we found, in others kind of disappointed and a recognition that we've really got some work ahead of us," she said in a telephone interview.

Asked why some attitudes persist, Reimer said: "It's centuries of control and male privilege. And so it's going to take time to change those attitudes."

Reimer said she found it "quite concerning," for example, that so many men don't consider slapping a child's face to be a form of domestic violence.

However, she was encouraged that 99 per cent of men said they felt they could personally make a difference to promote healthy, non-violent relationships.

She said with that baseline, her organization can help both men and women understand what that means in practice, including having conversations about what domestic violence is, and why it is wrong.

"We haven't really equipped women or men to have those kind of conversations, and we need to," she said.

While some of the statistics are shocking, others offer some hope that attitudes are changing.

Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they are more aware of the issues than they were five years ago, while 91 per cent said they would likely intervene if they knew someone who was in a violent relationship.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very important, the vast majority of respondents said fathers educating their sons and daughters about healthy, equal relationships rated a 9.5.

"I see that as very positive because girls need good male role models as well," Reimer said.

"And one of the things we've found through our experience is the sad, sad fact that many women and men identify an abusive relationship as somehow normal, that this is what's always happened in our family so this is normal."

The findings will help the agency, which is an umbrella organization for all women's and seniors' shelters in Alberta, target programs and messages, she said.

The survey polled 1,000 males aged 18 and older living in Alberta, and was conducted via telephone between February 6 and 27. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.