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UNB-led research team will help develop police expertise in responding to intimate partner violence


August 18, 2020
By UNB Newsroom
Dr. Carmen Gill, centre, at an event in 2016 announcing a National Framework for Collaborative Police Action on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Photo: Joy Cummings / UNB

Dr. Carmen Gill, a professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, wants to make life safer for Canadians facing intimate partner violence.

“Intimate partner violence is a widespread societal issue around the world that encompasses physical violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse and controlling behaviours,” Gill says. “From a criminal justice perspective, it is difficult to recognize certain acts as being part of that dynamic, such as ongoing patterns of coercive controlling behaviours that do not necessarily involve physical violence. Although we have improved our understanding of intimate partner violence and our approach to protecting Canadians, we can still do better.”

Gill and her colleagues have recently been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Development Grant to build police agency knowledge of coercive controlling behaviours as part of intimate partner violence dynamics.

The grant will provide more than $180,000 over three years in support of a partnership with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Knowledge Network, and the École nationale de police du Québec. The team will also include researchers from the University of Guelph and Université de Montréal and students from all three universities.

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The project team will engage with police agencies across Canada to examine police understanding of coercive controlling behaviours and to improve their risk assessment tools to include these.

“Coercive controlling behaviour is a significant aspect of intimate partner violence in Canada that is still not criminalized,” Gill says. “With this project, we want to support the development of new knowledge on coercive control as a major component of intimate partner violence, examine the perceptions of police officers across Canada and the assessment of the issue and support further development of evidenced-based policies and practices for better intervention in Canada.

“Our research has the potential to launch a necessary dialogue and debate for police agencies, policy makers and practitioners across Canada.”

The team’s research will lead to increased knowledge for researchers as well as for police agencies. The project will include a workshop to establish a dialogue and direction for future activities, a survey of police officers’ understanding and perceptions of coercive control, and the development of training materials and opportunities for police. Ultimately, they plan to establish a Canadian Centre for Policing intimate partner violence.

Gill has more than 30 years of experience in the field of family violence and intimate partner violence, including a decade leading the Canadian observatory on the justice system response to intimate partner violence.

This project is one of three UNB SSHRC Partnership Development Grants funded this year, totaling more than $500,000 over three years. Other projects explore the collaborative creation of a new sustainable forestry model in Atlantic Canada and the creation of a training program to enhance the capacity of provincial employees in using administrative data in decision making.

Dr. David MaGee, UNB’s vice-president (research), commended the researchers on the quality and reach of their projects.

“The research knowledge created by our faculty members and researchers has a life and purpose outside of our institutional walls,” he said. “These funded projects reflect the dedication of our researchers in contributing to the knowledge, success, and well-being of our communities, here in New Brunswick and beyond. Congratulations to all the research teams involved.”


Originally published on May 20 here.


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