Developing a Domestic Violence Prevention Agenda: Learning From Domestic Violence Death Reviews

Myrna Dawson
Department or Unit: 
Sociology & Anthropology
SSHRC Insight Grant
Project Dates: 

About the Project

Domestic violence death review (DVDR) initiatives operate in 6 countries; yet a comprehensive understanding of varying models, outcomes and impacts remains lacking. Most DVDRs examine system and human factors involved in domestic violence (DV)-related deaths with the aim of reducing future violence and death. Shared across these interdisciplinary, multi-sector DVDRs are two goals: (1) to compile demographic and descriptive data on deaths and those involved, including risk factors; (2) to document a chronological history of system contacts, including potential points of intervention, missed opportunities in service delivery, policy inadequacies and/or strategies for reform. The outcome of these two goals is the development of recommendations that will facilitate system change and improve society's response to DV through increased awareness, education and training.

Beyond limited anecdotal and basic data, there is a dearth of information about the frequency, type and topical content of recommendations arising out of these reviews, their rate of uptake, or how to measure and examine impacts of recommendations when implemented? Such information is vital because a better understanding of recommended improvements is a necessary first step if we are to understand the research and practice priorities for DV and domestic homicide prevention. Further, given the lack of evaluative focus on DVDR processes and/or outcomes, understanding what mechanisms and measures are available and should be used to examine recommendation uptake and impacts is also an urgent priority.

This research examines the impetus and operation of existing initiatives in Canada, with emphasis on recommendations, and explores avenues for evaluating recommendation uptake and impacts. Four questions guide this study: (1) What were the impetus and processes that lead to the implementation of each DVDR? (2) What are the similarities and differences in the characteristics of DVDRs? (3) What is the frequency, type and topical content of recommendations generated? (4) What is the most effective way to examine recommendation uptake and impacts?

The impacts of COVID-19 on the experiences of women, children and families experiencing violence and the herculean efforts of frontline service providers to respond with limited resources are well-documented locally and globally. The ongoing pressures of responding to, and recovering from, COVID-19 will be long-lasting, particularly on the distribution of scarce resources. Understanding immediate priorities and needs is crucial to violence prevention, but never more urgent than this moment in time, as violence against women, particularly at home, has been recognized as a pandemic of its own. This research will identify improvement priorities highlighted by DVDRs within and across Canada which is largely untapped knowledge. It will examine methods, mechanisms, and measures to better understand the rate of recommendation uptake and impacts which is long overdue given no evaluations have sought to systematically understand whether and how DVDRs are leading to concrete social and system changes.

The research findings are crucial for governments, community organizations, and professionals at all levels (e.g., internationally, within nations and locally) who are developing legislation and policy; designing and supporting responses to DV; and delivering programs on the ground. Results will be useful to those working across various sectors with victims, perpetrators, and families to better understand what improvements are urgent, whether they vary regionally, and/or for specific populations. Policy recommendations will inform education and training across and within sectors. It can set the bar for this research globally.