Addressing Domestic Violence in Post-Migration Gender Relations: a Prerequisite for Building Sustainable, Resilient Immigrant Communities

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  • Funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, this project was designed to explore in a systematic fashion the currently available data on domestic violence within Canadian immigrant and refugee communities (hereafter ‘immigrants’ or ‘newcomers’). Newcomers to Canada constitute not only a substantial percentage of the total national population, but are also becoming increasingly important to sustaining the Canadian economy and providing support for the rapidly aging portion of society. Although the arrival to a new country can be a positive and exciting time for newcomers, they often lose support networks they previously relied on in their home countries. They also face the challenge of navigating new gender role expectations, language barriers, and shifting family dynamics.3 Among the diverse range of stresses faced by newcomer families, domestic violence has been identified as a major source of concern. The serious and long-term consequences of domestic violence (including both physical and emotional effects that impact both parents and children), make obvious the need to address and reduce domestic violence rates among newcomers to Canada. Left with limited and/or ineffective support systems and services to combat domestic violence, newcomers will face additional barriers as they adjust to life in Canada. Moreover, the consequences of domestic violence impact not only immigrant families, but also their host country’s health-care related costs and spending.
    We know that changes in gender relations experienced by newcomer families are extremely important to early post-migration adaptation. Men are often seen as the key players in migration and are presented with greater opportunities to forge new social ties and pursue available economic prospects. The women, however, are routinely expected to rebuild the family as well as community support networks. The gendered status of migration and settlement could easily render women more vulnerable to domestic violence than men. A previous scoping review conducted by the investigators in this project revealed that immigrant women are more likely to be unaware of services available to support them when experiencing domestic violence; some of them are not properly informed about domestic violence as a punishable crime in Canada. This combination of factors, we suggest, also places women at a higher risk of domestic violence. To examine the relationship between domestic violence and capacity-building in immigrant families in the current literature, we carried out a scoping review of literature and relevant non-academic sources. This review, to our knowledge, is the first of its kind in Canada and, therefore, highlights the urgency and strategic nature of our study.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International