Nov. 8, 2022

Transformative research project takes 'whole community' approach to eradicating violence

Multi-level study asks Black communities to define issues and solutions in their own terms
Patrina Duhaney stands smiling in front evergreen trees.
Courtesy Patrina Duhaney

Fostering Violence Prevention and Well-Being for Black Women, Families and Communities is a new research project led by Dr. Patrina Duhaney, PhD, that aims to find concrete solutions to combatting domestic violence in Black Canadian communities.

The study has four key objectives: building domestic violence (DV) prevention knowledge; developing and implementing DV prevention and intervention strategies; increasing leadership capacity of Black communities and Black men through training, peer-to-peer mentorship and community education and mobilization; and developing recommendations in collaboration with Black communities to guide policy and program development. The study is funded under Preventing and Addressing Family Violence – the Health Perspective, a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) initiative.

Duhaney, assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary, has extensively researched Back women's experiences of domestic violence. She says the genesis of the project arrived in the form of a nudge from Sheryl Thompson, a colleague in Toronto who suggested she extend her focus to engaging Black men in violence prevention.

That suggestion then sparked the notion of building on existing work by a colleague of Duhaney's, Dr. Liza Lorenzetti, PhD, who co-developed the Alberta Men’s Network (AMN) Training Program. That initiative aims to increase capacity and training for men in areas such as sexual violence prevention, gender equity, human rights, and anticolonialism/antiracism.

“[This project] was about bringing those two areas together – my experience conducting research in Black communities on domestic violence and [Lorenzetti’s] experience on engaging men in eradicating domestic violence,” says Duhaney.

Given the paucity of official race-based data available, Duhaney’s experience as an investigator will prove invaluable in increasing the currently sparse DV scholarship, which in turn will provide a foundation upon which to foster community-led prevention and intervention responses by Black individuals and communities. Says Duhaney:

It's crucial that this information comes from Black communities, rather than people outside of these communities imposing their own definitions.

“There is limited research about Black people's experiences in the health-care system, and specifically related to domestic violence in Black communities. That’s why it is important for us to ask Black communities, how do they define domestic violence? What are their experiences of domestic violence and what changes do they believe are necessary to address domestic violence in their communities?" says Duhaney.

Similarly, Duhaney says that the peer-mentorship component is key to successfully building the capacity outlined in the study’s third objective ­– that is, enlisting and training Black men to disrupt and eradicate violence against Black women. As Duhaney says, “Recognizing that they play a significant role in DV prevention while building their transformative leadership capacity could be quite powerful for Black men.”

In keeping with PHAC’s criteria that DV-prevention research be both multi-layered and multi-sectoral, the study will apply critical race theory (CRT), gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) framework, and a health equity lens in working with Black communities in both Calgary and Toronto. Duhaney says the project will be guided by a “whole community approach,” led by a multi-sectoral Community Guiding Group involving many Black community stakeholders (i.e., both women and men, and ethnocultural, faith and youth leaders, DV survivors and prevention advocates).

In addition to Alberta Men’s Network, community partners of the four-year study include:

  • Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
  • TAIBU Community Health Centre (Toronto)
  • Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre (Toronto)

Co-investigators include:

  • Dr. Regine King, associate professor, University of Calgary
  • Dr. Akin Taiwo, associate professor, School of Social Work, King’s University College, Western University
  • Sheryl Thompson, professor, Humber College
  • Abbas Mancey, Alberta Men’s Network
  • Dr. Tara La Rose, associate professor, McMaster School of Social Work.

“I am excited to work with our research team and partner organizations," says Duhaney. "I plan to develop relationships with other organizations in Calgary and Toronto to effect change in Black communities.”