Anisnabe Kekendazone Network Environment for Aboriginal Health Research

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Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5
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Preventing gender and domestic violence in Aboriginal communities

Gender and domestic violence (also called family violence) are global commonplaces, affecting people in all countries and cultures, with women bearing the greater burden. The effects of these types of violence ripple across small communities - like Aboriginal communities in Canada - and have deep impact across the lifespan and between generations. They also play a role in HIV epidemics, as many young victims of sexual violence later become perpetrators. With an accelerating HIV epidemic in some Aboriginal communities, prevention of domestic violence takes on even greater urgency.


The words and concepts around gender and domestic violence are still unspoken in many Aboriginal communities. Research suggests that naming such violence is the first step towards healing and prevention.


Based on our work in Canada and abroad, we practice and encourage research aiming at systemic, community-based prevention of both gender and domestic violence. AK promotes research partnerships that emphasize training emerging researchers from all Aboriginal groups.


Rebuilding from Resilience


Evidence from AK seed-funded research on family violence led to a long-term partnership between CIET and 12 women’s shelters across Canada. The idea behind the Rebuilding from Resilience project is that many Aboriginal communities, with appropriate resources, have the resilience to implement their own effective solutions to family violence. Communities involved in the first stage of the research are now leading community interventions to reduce domestic violence.



Centre for Intercultural Research on Prevention of Gender Violence


In November 2009, and building on AK-supported initiatives, CIET and other academic and community partners received a grant to host the CIHR Centre for Intercultural Research on Prevention of Gender Violence (CIPREV). This centre develops research theory, methods, and tools for the prevention of gender violence among First Nations and Inuit populations who migrate to urban centres, and among immigrants residing in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, with a focus on parenting and protective values from the cultures of origin.


The articles below capture some of the research and reflection that went into the creation of this project. Other articles connected to domestic violence are available on our pages on resilience, HIV and AIDS, and approach and methods.


Shea B, Nahwegahbow A, Andersson N. Reduction of Family Violence in Aboriginal Communities: A Systematic Review of Interventions and Approaches.  Pimatisiwin. 2010 Fall; 8(2): 35–60.
Many efforts to reduce family violence are documented in the published literature. We conducted a systematic review of interventions intended to prevent family violence in Aboriginal communities. We retrieved studies published up to October 2009; 506 papers included one systematic review, two randomized controlled trials, and fourteen nonrandomized studies or reviews. Two reviews discussed interventions relevant to primary prevention (reducing the risk factors for family violence), including parenting, role modelling, and active participation. More studies addressed secondary prevention (where risk factors exist, reducing outbreaks of violence) such as restriction on the trading hours for take away alcohol and home visiting programs for high risk families. Examples of tertiary prevention (preventing recurrence) include traditional healing circles and group counselling. Most studies contributed a low level of evidence.

Andersson N, Nahwegahbow A. Family Violence and the Need for Prevention Research in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Communities.  Pimatisiwin. 2010 Fall; 8(2): 9–33.
Existing sources produce widely varying estimates of family violence in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities; taken together, they imply a convincing if poorly quantified higher risk of family violence in Aboriginal communities, with the greater burden borne by women. With the accelerating HIV epidemic in some Aboriginal communities, prevention of domestic violence takes on even greater urgency. Five planks in a prevention research platform include: training emerging researchers from all Aboriginal groups to promote culturally specific research; systematic review of unpublished and published knowledge of interventions that reduce domestic violence; intervention theory development specific to each community; attention to the particular ethical issues; and methods development focused on interventions.

Andersson N, Shea B, Amaratunga C, McGuire P, Sioui G. Rebuilding from Resilience: Research Framework for a Randomized Controlled Trial of Community-led Interventions to Prevent Domestic Violence in Aboriginal Communities.  Pimatisiwin. 2010 Fall; 8(2): 61–88.
This research framework, which competed successfully in the 2008 CIHR open operating grants competition, focuses on protocols to measure the impact of community-led interventions to reduce domestic violence in Aboriginal communities. The project develops and tests tools and procedures for a randomized controlled trial of prevention of family violence. Women's shelters mainly deal with victims of domestic violence, and the framework also addresses other types of domestic violence (male and female children, elderly, and disabled). The partner shelters are in Aboriginal communities across Canada, on and off reserve, in most provinces and territories. The baseline study applies a questionnaire developed by the shelters. Testing the stepped wedge design in an Aboriginal context, shelters randomized themselves to two waves of intervention, half the shelters receiving the resources for the first wave. A repeat survey after two years will measure the difference between first wave and second wave, after which the resources will shift to the second wave. At least two Aboriginal researchers will complete their doctoral studies in the project. The steering committee of 12 shelter directors guides the project and ensures ethical standards related to their populations. Each participating community and the University of Ottawa reviewed and passed the proposal.

Gibson N. Speaking of Domestic ViolencePimatisiwin. 2010 Summer; 8(2).
The words and concepts around violence in the family are still unspoken in many Aboriginal communities, and also in the literature. This special issue adds to the emerging conversation, naming and addressing the vari- ous kinds of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities. We chose this as the theme of this special issue because we believe that knowing and facing reality can lead to prevention.

Chase R, Mignone J, Diffey L. Life Story Board: A Tool in the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Pimatisiwin: Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 2010; 8(2):133-143.
The high rate of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities points to the need to explore new ways of understanding how this violence occurs in its context and to seek new and creative ways of preventing the perpetuation of this vicious cycle. The Life Story Board (LSB) is a game board with sets of cards, markers, and a notation system with which to construct a visual representation of someone’s life experience at personal, family, and community levels. Initially invented as an interview tool in an expressive art program for war-affected children, the LSB has broader potential for use by those working with youth, adults, and families in a variety of contexts, and as a tool for program evaluation and applied research. This article describes LSB methods and how they may apply in the context of Canadian First Nations, Inuit, and Métis community efforts to respond to, understand, and prevent domestic violence.




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