Helpers Exploring Abuse and Responding (H.E. A. R.)


The goals of the research team have been to investigate the most urgent practice questions of lay and professional family violence helpers who work within rural and geographically isolated communities, and to develop more effective prevention and intervention strategies. More recently the focus of the research has shifted to the health consequences of abuse for women and their children, and how social, education, justice and health policies and services make a difference.

Contact Persons:

Research Completed

1. The Process of Leaving for Women in Abusive Partner Relationships: A Feminist Qualitative Study

Researchers: Marilyn Merritt-Gray & Judith Wuest with the assistance of Lynn Matheson, Gail Johnson, Francine Breton, Jean Doucet, and Dr. Lesley Pinder.

Funded by: UNB Research Fund; N.B. Victim Services Fund


  • Merritt-Gray, M., & Wuest, J. (1995). Counteracting Abuse and Breaking Free: The process of leaving revealed through women's voices. Health Care for Women International, 16, 399-412.
  • Wuest, J. & Merritt-Gray, M. (1999). Not Going Back: Sustaining the Separation in the Process of Leaving Abusive Relationships. Violence Against Women, 5, 110-133.
  • Wuest, J. & Merritt-Gray, M. (2001). Beyond Survival: Reclaiming Self After Leaving an Abusive Male Partner. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 32(4),


2. Prevention of Family Violence in Rural Town, Island, and Geographically Isolated Communities: Determining Socio-cultural Influences on the Meanings of and Responses to Woman Abuse

Researchers: Francine Breton, Joan Despres, Randy DiPaulo, Jean Doucet, David Flieger, Arlene Haddon, Diane Kay, Gail Johnson, Lisa Lee, Lynn Matheson, Helen McCluskey, Janet Mersereau, Marilyn Merritt-Gray, Leslie Monaghan, Rev. Mary Beth Moriarity, Dr. Lesley Pinder, Donna Walsh, Judith Wuest

Funded by: Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation, Imperial Oil Grant

Final Report:

HEAR Research Team (1997). Prevention of family violence in rural town, island, and geographically isolated communities: Determining socio-cultural influences on the meanings of and responses to woman abuse: Final report. Fredericton, New Brunswick: Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research (Put PDF Link Here)


  • Haddon, A., Merritt-Gray, M., Wuest, J, & HEAR Research Team. (2004). Private matters and public knowledge in rural communities: The paradox. In M. Sterling, C. Cameron, N. Nason-Clark & B. Miedema, (Eds)., Understanding abuse: Partnering for change. (pp. 249-268). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
  • Wuest, J. & Merritt-Gray, M. (1997) Participatory action research: Practical dilemmas and emancipatory possibilities. In J. Morse (Ed.), Completing a Qualitative Research Project: Details and Dialogue (pp. 283-306). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Research Approaching Completion

1. The Impact of Woman Abuse on Family Health Promotion Processes among Single Mothers and their Children: A Feminist Qualitative Study in New Brunswick and Ontario

Researchers: Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, Judith Wuest, Marilyn Merritt-Gray, & Helene Berman with the assistance of Jeannie Malcolm and Adrienne Fulford

Funded by: Medical Research Council of Canada


  • Wuest, J., Ford-Gilboe, M., Merritt-Gray, M., & Berman, H. (2003). Intrusion: The central problem for family health promotion among children and single mothers after leaving an abusive partner.Qualitative Health Research, 13(5), 597-622.

2. The Influence of Public Policy on Health Promotion Processes in Mother-headed Single Parent Families who have Experienced Woman Abuse: A Participatory Study in New Brunswick and Ontario

Researchers: Judith Wuest, Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, Marilyn Merritt-Gray, Helene Berman with assistance from Jeannie Malcolm, Shannon Lemire, Carrie Traher Arnold, Anne Rowe and Mary Beth Davies

Funded by: National Health Research and Development Program


  • Wuest, J., Berman, H., Ford-Gilboe, M., & Merritt-Gray, M. (2002). Illuminating Social Determinants of Women’s Health Using Grounded Theory. Health Care for Women International, 23 (8).794-808.

Current Research in which Team Members are Engaged

1. The Effects of Personal, Social, and Economic Resources on Physical and Mental Health of Women in the Early Years after Leaving an Abusive Partner: A Longitudinal Study 2003-2008 in New Brunswick, British Columbia, and Ontario

Researchers: Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, Colleen Varcoe, Judith Wuest, Marilyn Merritt-Gray, Lorraine Davies, Olena Hankvisky with assistance from Joanne Galajda, Jeannie Malcolm, Jean Doucet, and Elaine Kenyon

Funded by: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Gender and Health

Web Site:

2. Achieving Non-Violence in Abusive Intimate Partner Relationships and Women’s Health: A Feminist Qualitative Study

Researchers: Marilyn Merritt-Gray and Judith Wuest with assistance from Jeannie Malcolm

Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

3. The Influence of Past Relationship and Obligation on Health and Health Promotion in Female Caregivers of Adult Family Members

Researchers: Judith Wuest, Marilyn Hodgins, Marilyn Merritt-Gray, and Pat Seaman with assistance from Jean Malcolm, and Karen Furlong.

Funded by: Canadian Institutes of Health Research