The Implications of Defining Domestic Violence for Vulnerable Populations

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Jordan FAIRBAIRN, King's University College at Western University, Canada
Myrna DAWSON, University of Guelph, Canada
Peter JAFFE, Western University, Canada
Marcie CAMPBELL, Western University, Canada
In this paper, we draw from work conducted as part of the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP). This national partnership focuses on four populations with unique vulnerabilities for domestic homicide: children, Indigenous peoples, immigrants and refugees, and rural, remote, and northern populations. Domestic violence has serious and potentially lethal consequences, yet mainstream prevention initiatives fall short and these groups are often overlooked as victims in these crimes. Furthermore, domestic violence death review committees (DVDRCs) have expanded in Canada and internationally in recent years, and face challenges in defining and preventing domestic violence and in addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.

In this paper we ask, how do we define domestic violence, and what are the implications of these definitions for vulnerable populations? Drawing from and comparing domestic violence death review committees in Canada and internationally, we explore (1) how these definitions are constructed; (2) how children, Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, and rural, remote, and northern communities factor in to these definitions; and (3) what gaps these categorical boundaries create. We consider how the gendered nature of these crimes shapes vulnerable communities' exposure and risk for domestic violence, and consider intersecting vulnerabilities that are important in understanding victims and perpetrators.

In unpacking how victims and perpetrators are constructed through definitions of domestic violence, we argue that an intersectional approach with particular attention to vulnerabilities stemming from systemic marginalization (e.g. colonization, racism), as well as generation and gender, is important for designing and implementing domestic violence prevention initiatives. We conclude by highlighting existing domestic violence prevention mechanisms that consider unique circumstances stemming from generation and gender as well as vulnerabilities related to Indigeneity, immigrant and refugee status, and geographical location. Potential directions for future research are discussed.