National initiative led by Western examines risk factors for vulnerable populations

Intimate partner violence accounts for 26 per cent of all violent crimes in Canada; in 2012, they represented 20 per cent of all homicides.

While researchers have recently identified risk factors associated with domestic violence and homicide, much less is known about risk factors for vulnerable populations who experience higher rates of violent victimization. Women, for example, are at a higher risk of domestic violence, but the threat is even greater for Aboriginal women, those living in rural areas, immigrant and refugee women and children exposed to domestic violence. These groups also experience various barriers that can make it more difficult for them to report domestic violence and access necessary services.

Experts from more than 40 community service organizations, government departments and universities have come together to address these issues by creating the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative for Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP). Western University education professor, Peter Jaffe, and University of Guelph sociology professor, Myrna Dawson, lead the initiative, which hopes to better understand underlying factors contributing to domestic homicide within these at-risk groups.

The CDHPIVP was awarded nearly $2.2 million by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Partnership Development Grant program this morning. Jaffe and Dawson anticipate research conducted through this initiative will impact policy and practice for multiple professions and agencies responding to domestic violence. Specifically, over the next five years, the CDHPIVP will create a national domestic homicide database and conduct research that informs strategy development for domestic homicide risk assessment, risk management and safety planning with vulnerable populations.

“Nationwide, collaborative efforts will allow us to identify unique, individual and community-level risk factors for violence for particular vulnerable populations,” says Jaffe, who is also director of Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children. “Assessing and managing risk for these and other groups is crucial to preventing deaths that occur in the context of domestic violence.”

This research “is crucial because it can save lives through enhanced policies and services in community responses to domestic violence,” says Dawson, who is also director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence at the University of Guelph.

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