Gendered practices in specialized domestic violence courts: A study of facilitators' perspectives on intimate partner violence treatment programs in Canada

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University of New Brunswick


The severity and societal issue of intimate partner violence (IPV) has been recognized through the increased use of pro-arrest and mandatory charge policies, development of specialized domestic violence courts (DVCs), and utilization of community-based IPV treatment programs to provide interventions to offenders. However, as a result, women continue to be arrested due to incident-specific approaches from law enforcement personnel that fail to account for the context of the situation or consider gender-specific issues that contribute to the use of violence. This symmetrical approach to responding to IPV persists at the judicial level with women also referred to IPV treatment programs that were originally designed for use with male perpetrators. Research has been conducted on the appropriate content required for female IPV offenders; however, there are not yet any national comparisons of male and female IPV treatment programs associated with specialized DVCs to assess if they consider the results of gender-specific research or uphold the neutral approach of the criminal justice system. Based in intersectionality and feminist perspectives of IPV that suggest women’s violence is uniquely different to that of men, this study assesses the utility and content of IPV treatment programs across Canada. A mixed methodological approach consisting of 22 online surveys and 10 telephone interviews was undertaken with IPV treatment program facilitators to compile information on the format and content of their programs as well as their personal opinions on overall effectiveness. Results identify that IPV treatment programs in Canada maintain an objective, gender-neutral approach synonymous with the criminal justice system. However, facilitators also recognize the pervasiveness of gendered differences in the perpetration of IPV, resulting in a necessity to reconsider current practices in the response to IPV.