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New study highlights intimate partner violence by a former partner in immigrant and Canadian-born women

Jan. 8, 2013

By Patricia Nicholson

A recent research study offers new insights into intimate partner violence as experienced by immigrant women in Canada.

Although there is a growing body of research about intimate partner violence, much less is known about how intimate partner violence may affect the immigrant populations, says Women’s College Research Institute scientist Dr. Janice Du Mont, lead author of the study.

“We wanted to see if we could better elucidate what was happening in terms of immigrant women in Canada and intimate partner violence,” Dr. Du Mont says.

Using data from Statistics Canada’s 2009 General Social Survey, the study looked at intimate partner violence by a former partner among 1,681 Canadian-born and immigrant women who had been in contact with a former partner in the previous five years. This study found very high rates of former partner abuse: 41.6 per cent of recent immigrants, 60.6 per cent of long-term immigrants, and 61.5 per cent of Canadian-born women reported intimate partner violence by a former partner in the previous five years. Intimate partner abuse could be physical, sexual, emotional or financial.

The study also showed that the length of time that women had lived in Canada affected rates of former partner abuse.

“Immigrant women who had been in Canada less than 20 years were 73 per cent less likely to say they’d experienced intimate partner violence than Canadian-born women. But when we looked at the immigrant women more than 20 years in Canada, there was no difference. So over time the rates appear to change,” Dr. Du Mont says.

The study authors considered several possible explanations for the finding that women who were newer to Canada reported lower rates of intimate partner violence by a former partner. It may be an underreporting issue due to factors such as linguistic barriers, financial dependence on the perpetrator, or fear of deportation, etc., but there are also possible protective factors in this group, such as a strong sense of family belonging and connectedness in immigrant communities.

Although women who were newer to Canada had lower overall levels of intimate partner violence from former partners, the findings suggest that they may be more likely to be sexually assaulted by a former partner than Canadian-born women or those immigrant women who have been here longer.

“That finding has to be interpreted very cautiously,” Dr. Du Mont says. “The sample sizes were very small so it’s something that needs to be further examined.”

The study was published in Annals of Epidemiology in November 2012.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital