Intimate partner violence happens in rural and northern communities just as it does in cities, but little is known about the number of incidents or the supports those communities provide for victims.
In Saskatchewan, intimate partner violence is a serious social problem. Saskatchewan experiences the highest rates of sexual assault in Canada, the highest rates of spousal homicide, and higher than average rates of intimate partner violence.
The little Canadian research that exists suggests there is a higher rate of domestic homicides in rural and northern communities. This is especially relevant to Saskatchewan which is a highly rural province: 36 per cent of Saskatchewan is considered rural compared to the Canadian average of 20 per cent.
Luther College (University of Regina) psychology professor Mary Hampton, together with a large team of academic and community research partners from the Prairie provinces and Northwest Territories, will investigate this issue under a new $1 million, five-year research grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The grant was awarded through SSHRC's Community-University Research Alliance (CURA). This program supports research collaborations between post-secondary institutions and community organizations that work together to achieve results that can have immediate impact.
Hampton says one of the first steps will be collecting data on shelter visits and incidents of intimate partner violence reported to the justice system, then using geographic information system (GIS) mapping to compare incidents and supports. Researchers will interview service providers and justice workers in selected rural and northern communities, as well as develop in-depth profiles of how the issue has been handled in these communities.
Using these profiles, the research team will develop a strategy that outlines the steps an individual or organization can take when a problem arises. "I think a lot of people don't know what to do when they know about intimate partner abuse happening in their communities," she says.
This research builds on what Hampton and other team members learned in a recently completed project on intimate partner violence, also with support from CURA. The Healing Journey research involved following more than 600 women across the Prairie provinces who had been victims of abuse, on their journey to recovery. Hampton says the missing piece in this research was the rural and northern experience.
This project will be led by a team from RESOLVE (Research and Education for Solutions to Violence and Abuse). RESOLVE has offices in the three Prairie provinces and Hampton is Saskatchewan's academic research coordinator. The full research team consists of 18 academic researchers and 15 community partners from across the Prairie provinces and Northwest Territories.