The disparity fits into the larger picture of violent crime in the two countries–high in the U.S., low in Canada. “It’s partly cultural and partly the way the rules and regulations and social policy work in Canada,” said a Canadian sociology professor. “The social net is a little bit tighter in Canada.”
Amid the growing list of reports of celebrity sexual assaults in the United States, Americans might want to look north for clues as to why it’s less of a problem in Canada, says USA Today. The rate of reported sexual assaults and rapes in Canada is roughly half that in the U.S. The University of Victoria’s Cecilia Benoit said a lower number of sexual assaults in Canada fit into a larger trend of fewer violent crimes in general. “It’s partly cultural and partly the way the rules and regulations and social policy work in Canada,” she said. “The social net is a little bit tighter in Canada. Guns laws are very different, community cohesion is stronger with less individualism.”
Alex McKay of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada said the country has made strides in teaching lessons about sexual consent. In addition, “sex education is on average likely better than what it is in American schools because it tends to be less ideologically driven,” added McKay, who said Canada has a more progressive attitude toward sexuality. Holly Johnson, a professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in the justice system’s response to sexual violence, notes that the definition of sexual assault is different in each country. In the U.S., sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient,” according to the Justice Department website. That can range from forced intercourse to fondling. In Canada, sexual assaults are divided into three categories, with the vast majority classified as those that leave little or no physical injury to the victim. Johnson noted that most sexual assaults go unreported in both countries.