A Comparative Analysis of the Intimate Partner Abuse in Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women’s populations








A Comparative Analysis of the Intimate Partner Abuse in Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women’s populations















A Comparative Analysis of the Intimate Partner Abuse in Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women’s populations


Aboriginal women are more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) than non-Aboriginal women. Some of the factors that cause the difference are lower levels of education for Aboriginal women, lower socio-economic status, and cultural beliefs. Globally, some of strategies that can be used to reduce the prevalence of IPV include promoting the socio-economic status of women through education, advocacy through involvement in politics, controlling alcoholism, and a public health strategy that encourages disclosure.


Intimate partner abuse is a term used to describe abuse against a woman from a spouse. It can also be a person with whom she has or had a sexual relationship (Moffitt et al., 2013).

  1. a) Prevalence rates

Globally, low income levels, low education levels, heavy drinking, weak community sanctions, and social norms among other factors are considered to be the main factors that contribute to the prevalence of IPV (Etienne et al., 2002). In different countries, some of the factors that make men become violent against women include appearing disobedient, argumentative, questioning the man about money or girlfriends, neglecting children, and refusal to participate in sex (Etienne et al., 2002).

More than a decade ago, studies indicated that Aboriginal women in Canada were more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women. Cherniak et al. (2005) discuss a study by the World’s Health Surveillance Report that conducted a research in 1999. The research found out that 57.2 percent of Aboriginal women had experienced IPV compared with non-Aboriginal women at 18.5 percent. The data was collected predominantly from the western provinces of Canada. Of the Aboriginal women who were abused at that time, 87 percent had been physically injured and 57 percent sexually abused (Cherniak et al., 2005).

More recent data indicates that the trend has not changed. Daoud et al. (2013) used data collected between 2006 and 2007 to study the prevalence of intimate partner abuse among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women in Canada. They found out that Aboriginal women had about three times a higher chance of experiencing intimate partner abuse (IPV) than non-Aboriginal women (15.9% compared with 5.8%). When the data was adjusted for the differences in socio-economic factors among the two groups, it was found that the prevalence of IPV among Aboriginal women declined by 40 percent. It may indicate that socio-economic position differences are a contributing factor in the high IPV prevalence among Aboriginal women. According to a 2011 study, Aboriginal women have about 2.5 times a higher chance of experiencing IPV than non-Aboriginal women (Canadian Center for Justice, 2013). Considering the last five-year period, they still had 3 times higher chance of encountering IPV. According to the Canadian Center for Justice (2013), the prevalence of violence against men is also higher among Aboriginal men than non-Aboriginal men (16% compared with 6%), which may indicate cultural issues. Daoud et al. (2013) suggest that reducing the differences in socio-economic factors can reduce the prevalence of IPV among Aboriginal women.

The prevalence of homicide related to IPV is disproportionately high for Aboriginal women than the non-Aboriginal women. The Canadian Centre for Justice (2013) statistics indicate that Aboriginal women who die as a result of dating homicides accounted for 11 percent of all homicides between 2001 and 2011 when Aboriginal accounted for only 4 percent of the population during the period. Those killed by a spouse was 4 percent, matching the size of Aboriginals in the Canadian population. The data indicates that Aboriginal women are more likely to die as a result of IPV than non-Aboriginal women.

In reporting incidences of IPV, Aboriginal women had similar levels of reporting as non-Aboriginal women. The Canadian Center for Justice (2013) indicates that four out of 10 women who were attacked by their spouses reported to the police, which is similar to the number of non-Aboriginal women reporting victimization by their spouse. The Canadian Center for Justice (2013) indicates that non-spousal violence against women is rarely reported. The statistics indicate that about 90 percent of non-spousal assaults go unreported. For Aboriginal women, some of the barriers to reporting IPV include threats from their spouse or family, distance to the police station, poor relationships with the police, and fear of losing children to the child welfare authorities after disclosure (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2008).

  1. b) Similarities and differences in the factors that affect IPV
  2. i) Socio-cultural

Aboriginals are four times more likely to live in congested areas than the non-Aboriginals (Daoud, 2013). According to the Canadian Center for Justice (2013), women residing in areas of a lower social class are more likely to report spousal violence that those living in high income areas. In the Northern provinces where Aboriginals are the major occupants, Moffitt et al. (2013) explains that overcrowding in houses is a common feature. IPV prevalence among Aboriginals has been linked to the congestion in their homes.

Alcoholism has been linked to high IPV prevalence. Moffitt et al. (2013) discuss that alcohol is a new introduction among Aboriginals for which they have not developed a habit of consuming it in an orderly manner. A higher rate of alcohol abuse among the Northerners in Canada is a symbol of how Aboriginals abuse alcohol. As a result, they are more likely to engage in violent behavior. Moffitt et al. (2013) suggests that substances abuse is a common factor among women who experience IPV. The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence (2008) indicates that a majority of Aboriginals mentioned substance abuse as one of the major factors increasing the prevalence of IPV.

The Aboriginals culture, where males want to exercise their dominance over women, is also cited as one of the factors that contribute to a higher prevalence of IPV (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2008). Residential schools are also considered to pass on the male-domineering culture from one generation to the next.

IPV among Aboriginal women is more prevalent because they are more likely to be single and to be married at a younger age compared with non-Aboriginal women (Daoud et al. (2013). Peters, Shackelford, & Buss (2002) conducted a study that found out that violence against women reduces as women become older. The instances of infidelity suspicion are less in older women than younger women. Younger men are also more likely to be perpetrators of violence than older men. The higher prevalence of IPV among Aboriginal women may partly be associated with the sexual relationships they have at younger ages.

  1. ii) Political

Lasting memories of historical injustice is one of the factors that are considered to have an influenced on the high prevalence of IPV among Aboriginals. Moffit et al. (2013) found out that colonization has a contributing effect to the violent nature of Aboriginals. The residential schooling and the Christian teaching are considered to have made Aboriginals hate their own beliefs, resulting in a culture of violence (Bopp, Bopp & Lane, 2003). Residential schooling has been associated with the post traumatic-stress disorder prevalent among the Aboriginal people. Loss of identity and their historical way of life is one of the factors highlighted that increase prevalence of IPV among Aboriginal communities (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2008).

The perception of male dominance can be reduced by female leaders occupying high profile jobs in the government. Aboriginal women may be less likely to hold high-ranking political office due to their lower levels of education. Burn (2011) discusses that women rise to political power during economic crises, using their higher academic achievements, and relationship to a kin in high-ranking political office. Aboriginal women can be more involved in leadership when they are better-educated and when a larger proportion of their community is involved in politics.

iii) Economic

Daoud et al. (2013) discusses that socio-economic factors contribute to IPV through factors such as financial stress, drug abuse, lack of social support, and living in congested areas. The 2006 Canadian found out that 21.7 percent of the Aboriginal group earned below the low-income category compared with 11.1 percent of non-Aboriginal group (Daoud et al, 2013).  The probability that an Aboriginal is a high-school dropout doubles when compared with non-Aboriginals. University graduates among Aboriginals constituted only 9.3 percent compared with 34 percent for non-Aboriginals (Daoud et al., 2013). Daoud et al. (2013) found out that 24 percent of Aboriginal women had not completed high school education compared with 6.7 percent for non-Aboriginal mothers. The level of education is relevant economically because it affects the chances of being employed and the level of income that individuals are likely to earn.

Women living in areas that are considered of a lower socio-economic status are more likely to experience violence. The Canadian Center for Justice (2013) found out that women residing in territories that have an average income of $60,000 are three times more likely to be victimized by their spouses than those in higher income territories. Lack of financial independence among Aboriginal women is also considered among factors that increase prevalence of IPV (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2008).

  1. c) Analysis of strategies for eliminating violence against women across the globe
  2. i) One of the strategies is to include a public health approach that encourages the reporting of intimate partner abuse. Cherniak et al. (2005) suggest that medical health practitioners can be used to encourage women to talk about the experiences of intimate partner abuse in their homes. They suggest that it should be conducted while adhering to the patient’s right of self-determination and confidentiality. Cherniak et al. (2005) suggest the use of visuals set in strategic locations in the health facilities encouraging women to report instances of violence as well as discouraging violent behavior from men. They also propose giving helpful information to abused women through the public health system, such as local shelters and legal counsel.
  3. ii) There is a need to help women identify a safety plan, depending on their contexts, that can use to avoid being hurt by abusive partners. For example, women can be coached on predicting instances of violence, how to escape, and where to keep their essential documents in case they want to escape.
  4. ii) Providing shelter for needy women who live in abusive relationships is one of the strategies for reducing violence against women. The Canadian Center for Justice (2013) discusses the case where the government and non-governmental organizations provide shelter for women who are victims. Moffitt et al. (2013) explains that most of the women who experience IPV cannot afford their own housing. It may help to reduce the situation where women are stuck in abusive relationships because they have nowhere else to go. Etienne et al. (2002) provide an alternative where the abusive spouse is the one to be ordered to leave the house and pay maintenance expenses.

iii)        Women can be taught how to recognize healthy relationships and how to avoid abusive ones. Burn (2011) suggests that there is a need to educate women on self-efficacy. When women belief on the efforts that they can make themselves to avoid abusive relationships, it will reduce instances or unreported IPV and their prevalence. In most cases, women stay in abusive relationships because they feel powerless and dependent on their spouse.

  1. iv) Educating the society to change from traditional notions of male dominance through violence against women. Etienne et al. (2002) discuss that male honor and female chastity as some of the reasons for IPV prevalence in some countries (Etienne et al., 2002). Generally, the level of education of partners influences IPV. High school dropouts are more vulnerable. Ensuring that young adults are fully educated can reduce IPV prevalence.
  2. v) Reducing barriers to reporting to the police and supporting the arrest of PIV culprits can help reduce violence. According to Etienne et al. (2002), a study conducted in Minneapolis in 1984 indicated that arrests reduced the prevalence of violence by a half for a six-month period. Supporting arrests as a way of reducing IPV may be considered an effective method. Bopp, Bopp & Lane (2003) recommend the formation of a community response team that will respond to IPV cases, providing training and healing among communities living in traditional contexts. Al-Yaman, Doeland & Wallis (2006) suggest the use of mediation programs for dispute resolution.
  3. vi) Excessive alcohol consumption has been identified as one of the factors that increase IPV prevalence. Alcohol affects the cognitive capacities of individuals, making them unable to negotiate in a non-violent manner. Kabeer (2014) explains that interpersonal skills are an influential factor in explaining part of the prevalence in IPV. Excessive alcohol can also affect the ability of a spouse to provide for the financial needs of a family. WHO (n.d.) recommends a strategy to reduce alcohol consumption by limiting its availability by reducing hours it is made available for sale, increasing its price, rehabilitating addicts, and using screening interventions.

vii)       Ensuring more women take up leadership positions in politics can help reduce the perception of male dominance. Burn (2011) suggests that involvement of women in politics can have an influence on male-domineering cultures. According to Burn (2011), women need to occupy about one-third of parliamentary seats to effectively advocate for issues affecting women. There may be a need for affirmative action through legislation to guarantee women one-third of the seats in the legislature in countries that are still lagging behind.


Findings indicate that Aboriginal women have three times a higher chance of experiencing intimate partner violence than non-Aboriginal women. When differences created by socio-economic positions are controlled, intimate partner violence among Aboriginal women reduces by 40 percent. It shows that socio-economic factors influence a higher prevalence of intimate partner violence among Aboriginal women. In politics, it has been discussed that exposure to historical political injustices have influenced Aboriginal’s culture of violence. Aboriginals were more exposed to the negative effects of colonization than non-Aboriginals. Globally as well as for Aboriginals, substance abuse has been identified as a factor that increases IPV. Alcoholism affects individual’s reasoning and their ability to provide basic needs to the family. Dealing with the issue of alcoholism can help reduce IPV. Effective advocacy requires the involvement of women in politics. Women need to be educated to get involved in politics. Higher levels of education will also reduce dependency on spouses, which will reduce the prevalence of IPV. When the whole community is better-educated, the influence of male-domineering notions and negative cultural beliefs will be eliminated.























Al-Yaman, F., Doeland, M., & Wallis, M. (2006). Family violence among Aboriginal and Torres           Strait Islander peoples. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Bopp, M., Bopp, J., Lane, P. (2003). Aboriginal domestic violence in Canada. Ottawa:   Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Burn, S. M. (2011). Women across cultures: A global perspective (3rd ed.). New York, NY:        McGraw-Hill Companies.

Canadian Centre for Justice. (2013). Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends.         Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca

Cherniak, D. et al. (2005, April). Intimate partner violence consensus statement. Journal of        Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 157, 365-388.

Daoud, N. et al. (2013). The contribution of socio-economic position to the excesses of violence           and intimate partner violence among Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal women in         Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 104(4), e278-e283.

Etienne, G. K. et al. (2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva: World Health         Organization.

Kabeer, N. (2014). Violence against women as ‘Relational’ vulnerability: Engendering the          sustainable human development agenda. Retrieved from hdr.undp.org

Moffitt, P. et al. (2013). Intimate partner violence in the Canadian territorial north: Perspectives            from a literature review and a media watch. International Journal of Circumpolar Health,          2013(72), 1-7.

National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. (2008). Aboriginal Women and Family Violence.    Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada.

Peters, J., Shackelford, T., & Buss, D. (2002). Understanding domestic violence against women:           Using evolutionary psychology to extend the feminist functional analysis. Violence and            Victims, 17(2), 255-264.

WHO. (n.d.). Intimate partner violence and alcohol fact sheet. Retrieved from             http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/factsheets/ft_intimate.p           df




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