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New research explores effects of intimate partner violence in immigrant and Canadian-born women

Jan. 8, 2013

By Patricia Nicholson

A new research study highlights differences and similarities in how Canadian-born and immigrant women experience intimate partner violence.

The study, published in BMJ Open in November 2012, compared the physical and psychological consequences of intimate partner violence in Canadian-born and immigrant women.

“We looked at those assaulted by a current or ex partner and then looked at the different types of abuse experienced and the  consequences of that abuse,” says Women’s College Research Institute scientist Dr. Janice Du Mont, lead author of the study .

The study found higher rates of intimate partner violence in Canadian-born women compared to immigrant women, with 18.2 per cent of Canadian-born women and 15.3 per cent of immigrant women reporting emotional abuse, and 6.9 per cent of Canadian-born women and 5.1 per cent of immigrant women reporting physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner.

However, there was no difference in the consequences of physical or sexual intimate partner violence between immigrant and Canadian-born women.

“Although we didn’t find any differences in the consequences experienced by immigrant and Canadian-born women, we still found high rates of physical and psychological sequelae for both groups,” Dr. Du Mont says. Among immigrant women for example, 37.9 per cent of those who experienced physical or sexual violence said they were injured, and almost one-quarter had to take time off from their everyday activities. There were high rates of being upset, confused and frustrated among physically or sexually abused women, and many were fearful: one-quarter of the immigrant women and one-third of the Canadian-born women feared their lives were in danger.

One area in which abused immigrant and Canadian-born women differed was discrimination and trust, which could affect their likelihood of seeking help.

“Abused immigrant women were much more likely to state that they had experienced discrimination and unfair treatment based on ethnicity and culture, based on race or colour, based on language, or to experience any type of discrimination overall than Canadian-born women,” Dr. Du Mont says. “Those findings, and also the findings around trust – that they’re less likely to trust in their neighbours, less likely to trust in people at work and school – may all have implications for seeking help subsequent to intimate partner violence.”

The study sheds new light on the impact of intimate partner violence on immigrant women. The more is known about this global problem, the greater the opportunities to shape policy and practice to improve things for those experiencing intimate partner violence.

“Intimate partner violence is really a significant issue,” Dr. Du Mont says. “Although the most hidden type of violence against women globally, we also know that it is the most common type of violence against women globally.”

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  • Women's College Hospital