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Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre

Research themes

MMFC research addresses a variety of contexts, subpopulations and forms of violence and abuse. These are explained below.

See our scholarly publications, reports, blogs, handouts and videos based on research results.



Disabilities

Women with disabilities face multiple structural barriers, thus increasing their risk of experiencing family violence. Perpetrators may include family members, intimate partners, and caregivers. Societies generally have policies for persons with disabilities; however, this does not necessarily ensure that public services are accessible or responsive to women with disabilities experiencing family violence. 

The Violence against Women with Disabilities Research Team led by Dr. Angela Wisniewski, assistant professor in Science and Technology Studies at St. Thomas University, aims to better understand the lived experience of women with disabilities and the realities they face when confronting violence from intimate partners, other family members and paid caregivers. This team also investigates the challenges faced by service providers when helping this subpopulation of women. They have created a number of infographics and posters to raise awareness.

Gender

Family violence affects people of all genders, but it is gendered. Women are more likely to be victims/survivors, and men are more likely to be perpetrators. People who identify as 2SLGBTQ experience family violence at rates equal to or higher than cisgendered heterosexual people. Physical assault, sexual assault, and murder are crimes that occur in the context of family violence, a full understanding of which must include an analysis of their gendered nature.

Law fellow

Dr. David C. Hofmann, research fellow, is associate professor in the Department of Sociology at UNB.

David’s current research interests are focused on five broad areas:

  • terrorism and political violence
  • charismatic leadership
  • right-wing extremism
  • apocalyptical and millenarian groups
  • criminal and illicit networks

Given the culture of toxic masculinity that often goes hand-in-hand with groups and individuals involved in right-winged extremist groups, the latter is an environment where IPV/gendered-violence is likely to thrive. David incorporates this relationship between right-wing extremism and IPV/gender-violence into his research.

Dr. Kelly Scott-Storey conducts research at the intersection of gender and health.

Safe and Understood: Intervening with families to promote healthy child outcomes and prevent abuse recurrence for young child victims of domestic violence exposure is a national project led in New Brunswick by Chantal Bourassa, professor at the School of Social Work, Université de Moncton. To date, two intervention programs have been implemented: Mothers in Mind, designed for mothers who have experienced intimate partner violence and their young children, and Caring Dads, designed for the fathers that have been violent in a family setting. This program aims to prevent the recurrence of violent acts, develop behaviours focused on the needs of the child, and promote a parental alliance with the other parent.

Health

Family violence can have significant impacts on the physical and mental health of victims and perpetrators. Health care workers play an important role in responding to people's immediate physical and emotional needs, and with proper training, can determine if symptoms are the consequences of family violence. Thus, health practitioners are a crucial link between survivors/perpetrators and family violence resources in the community. In 2016, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer identified family violence as a public health concern.

Kelly Scott-Storey

Dr. Kelly Scott-Storey, a research fellow, is associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing at UNB. Her research addresses:

  • the mechanisms by which lifetime violence can affect cardiovascular health among women and men
  • the relationship between health and violence from a gendered cumulative lifetime perspective for both women and men
  • men’s experiences of violence, both as a target and perpetrator - and how this intersects with gender and health

She has been part of an international team who have developed a short measurement instrument of intimate partner violence appropriate for use in national and population surveys. This instrument is currently being used by Statistics Canada in the new Gender-Based Violence Survey.

She is a co-principal investigator on iCAN Plan 4 Safety, a study that explores the effectiveness of an internet-based decision aid in enhancing safety behaviours, reducing exposure to violence and improving mental health among women; and iHeal, a study that aims to test the effectiveness of a complex, evidence-based health promotion intervention in enhancing mental and physical health, quality of life, capacities and resources of women who are in the process of separating from an abusive partner.

Immigrants

While we do not have evidence that immigrants are more or less likely to experience family violence than non-immigrants in Canada, they face multiple structural barriers: ethnicity/race, class and gender. These intersecting structures lead to unique vulnerabilities among immigrant survivors and perpetrators. With training, service providers can better respond to immigrants with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Atlantic Canada is experiencing rapid growth in its immigrant population. Governments should adapt their abuse protocols to better respond to the unique needs of immigrant women and children.

This Violence against Immigrant and Visible Minority Women Research Team, co-chaired by Dr. Catherine Holtmann, Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at UNB, and Natasha Akthar, of the New Brunswick Immigrant Women's Association, explores the nature, extent and impact of multiple forms of violence experienced by different groups of immigrant women within urban and rural New Brunswick. The research is used to develop practical resources to assist stakeholders in addressing issues of domestic and community violence within the different immigrant groups in New Brunswick.

An example is a film they developed in partnership with the Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick, Breaking Barriers and Moving Forward, which highlights the struggles and successes of Asian women living in New Brunswick.

Dr. Evangelia TastsoglouDr. Evangelia Tastsoglou, research fellow, is professor in the Department of Sociology and International Development Studies at Saint Mary's University. Evie is the principal investigator of several projects that explore violence against migrant and refugee women. Her research, published in national and international peer-reviewed venues, engages women, gender and various aspects of international migration; Canadian immigration and integration; violence, citizenship, transnationalism and diasporas.

Law

Only a small proportion of family violence incidents are reported to police – the front line of the legal system’s response to family violence. Other components of the legal system’s response include civil and criminal courts, victim services, prisons, probation, and treatment programs. Each of these components include laws and procedures as well as the professionals who enforce them.  Research plays a role in assessing how effective the system and justice professionals are in ensuring justice for victims and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. Sometimes changes to the legal system’s response to family violence have unintended consequences.

Dr. Mary Ann CampbellDr. Mary Ann Campbell, research fellow, is professor in the Department of Psychology on the Saint John campus of UNB and the Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies. Her research focuses on developing and enhancing the application of evidence-based strategies for crime prevention and reduction as well as police psychology. In collaboration with the New Brunswick Department of Public Safety, Mary Ann's research team is working on a study to extend the predictive validity of the ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment) to a wider population of perpetrators (females, Indigenous persons, immigrants).

Dr. Linda NeilsonDr. Linda Neilson, research fellow, is professor emerita at UNB. Linda is a recognized academic authority on legal systems and domestic violence, as well as the impact of exposure to family violence on children. She serves regularly as academic advisor on domestic violence and court-related, cross-sector government committees. She is the author of the e-book, Responding to Domestic Violence in Family Law, Civil Protection and Child Protection Cases, published by the Canadian Legal Information Institute. She is the principal investigator of a research project on a Coordinated Provincial/Queen's Bench Family Violence Court Model

Linda heads a network of international legal scholars working on the issue of parental alienation, a highly problematic concept used in family law. She submitted a memo to the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the support of many others from Canada, Australia, France, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States, to remove all references to “parental alienation” and related concepts from the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11).

Dr. Karla O'ReganDr. Karla O’Regan, research fellow, is associate professor in Criminology at St. Thomas University and part-time lecturer at UNB’s Faculty of Law. Her research focuses on consent laws and the socio-legal contexts of sexual violence. She works with the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre, the Fredericton Police Force, and the New Brunswick Department of Justice. Her book, Law & Consent: Contesting the Common Sense, is available through Routledge Publishing.

Religion

Religion is a social institution that influences gender roles and families. Religion is not the cause of family violence but rather shapes it along with the culture in which religious individuals and families are embedded. Religious texts and practices can be used by perpetrators to justify family violence however, there are resources in every religious tradition that can be harnessed to ensure the safety of women and children. The religious landscape in Canada is becoming increasingly diverse. In a multicultural society which values religious freedom, service providers should get training in order to become more sensitive to the unique needs of religious survivors and perpetrators.

Book launch

The Religion and Violence Research Team, led by Dr. Catherine Holtmann and Dr. Stephen McMullin, Academic Dean at Acadia Divinity College, examines the story of what happens when religious people look to their faith communities for help in the aftermath of violence in the family context. Members of the team have conducted studies with religious leaders, seminarians, women of faith, men who batter, congregations, shelter workers, advocates, criminal justice personnel, facilitators of faith-based treatment programs and therapeutic professionals.

This research forms the basis of online resources available on the Religion and Violence E-Learning or RAVE website and contributes to filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle regarding how best to combat family violence in families of faith.

Sexual violence

The #MeToo movement has heightened public attention to the widespread problem of sexual violence in society. Feminist researchers argue that we live in a “rape culture” in which normative heterosexual scripts foster sexual assault of women, children and minority persons. The process of consent is at best obscured. Technology has facilitated cyberviolence which includes harassment, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and the distribution of images of child sexual abuse. Sexual violence research can inform practice and policy in education, health care, and religious institutions.

The Sexual Violence Research Team's objective is to build a more textured account of the presence of sexual violence and intimate partner sexual violence in the lives of New Brunswick women and create space for marginalized voices in particular. 

The team, led by Lorraine Whalley of Sexual Violence New Brunswick (formerly the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre), is committed to projects that involve collaboration with varied community stakeholders and implementation of action-oriented approaches with the goal of contributing to community mobilization efforts in the prevention of sexual violence, as well as practice and policy innovation. Members of the Sexual Violence Research Team contributed to the New Brunswick Sexual Violence Framework and serve on its implementation committee. 

Dr. Diane CrockerDr. Diane Crocker, research fellow, is professor and chair of the Department of Criminology at Saint Mary's University.

Her research interests include restorative justice, rape culture, violence against women, criminal harassment, and the use of law to address social problems, especially those that affect women.

Diane uses participative narrative inquiry (PNI) as a method to promote cultural change.

Sexual violence fellow

Dr. Lucia F. O’Sullivan, research fellow, is professor in the Department of Psychology at UNB and the director of the experimental psychology program. 

Her research addresses the interface of sexuality and intimate relationships, with a primary focus on adolescents and young adults including:

  • sexual health
  • risk behaviour
  • intimate partner violence
  • the impact of new digital technologies

Dr. Ardath WhynachtDr. Ardath Whynacht, research fellow, is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Mount Allison University. She specializes in critical criminology, feminist and queer theory, mental health and trauma, sociology of science, and youth culture.

Ardath explores community responses to violence outside the criminal justice system, including family and partner violence and violence against marginalized groups. She frequently contributes commentary to media on problems of intimate partner and sexual violence.

Violence across the lifespan

Family violence impacts people from the womb to the grave – it discriminates against no one. While young adults are at a higher risk of experiencing intimate partner violence than any other age group, intervention and prevention efforts are necessary at all stages of the lifespan. Awareness-raising and education campaigns should consider the learning styles and specific needs of people of different ages.

Preventing and Eliminating Cyberviolence against Young Women and Girls is a project that was initiated by the MMFC in collaboration with the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers and the New Brunswick Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. The team worked with young identifying women between the ages of 16 and 19 to identify institutional responses to cyberviolence and the lived experiences of cyberviolence in New Brunswick. Dr. Matt Rogers, associate professor with the Faculty of Education at UNB, has led the recent production of a participatory video drama, Social Proof, based on themes of the earlier research. The team’s intention was to mobilize the voices of young women and to use an arts-based approach to accent youth agency and address institutionalized paternalism.

The goal of the Creating Peaceful Learning Environments Research Team is to assist schools to reduce violence across the lifespan and to enhance resiliency, therefore contributing to the creation of a peaceful learning environment for all. The team is led by Dr. Ann Cameron, professor emerita, UNB and honorary professor at UBC.

Gender factors in:

  • youth perceptions of intimate relationships
  • truth and trust
  • reciprocal learning
  • resilience in adolescents transition to school

This works highlights the importance of gender and culturally sensitive research analyses and interventions. Significant implications for school’s violence prevention, social and emotional development and youth resiliency work arose from this research.

ANOART

The Abuse and Neglect of Older Adults Research Team (ANOART) seeks to understand Maritime adults’ experience with violence later in life, with a focus on the abuse and neglect of older women. The team, co-chaired by Dr. Lori Weeks, associate professor at Dalhousie University's School of Nursing, and Danie Gagnon, has investigated the gaps, challenges and importance of having a gendered community response to respond and prevent violence of older adults as women are more at risk of being abused. This research contributes to meeting the needs of older women who are visible minorities, official language minorities or living in a rural area.

Workplace

Many of us spend more time at work than in our homes, yet family dynamics have an impact on relationships in the workplace. The inverse is also true – workplaces can be a breeding ground for bullying and harassment that impact employees' physical and emotional wellbeing. Workplaces can be environments in which victims suffer in silence or get the information and support to assist them in making their lives safer and healthier. Employers can access resources for information and training in order to ensure that their work environments support healthy relationships. New Brunswick, along with other provinces in Canada, has amended its Employment Standards Act to include paid and unpaid leave for intimate partner, domestic, and sexual violence.

The Workplace Violence and Abuse (Workplace Bullying) Research Team conducts qualitative research designed to deepen our understanding of the various ways in which New Brunswickers experience bullying, intimidation, victimization, aggression, and other forms of violence and abuse in their workplaces. Team co-chairs, Dr. Susan O'Donell, associate professor of Nursing at UNB, and Anthea Plummer, have led research with organizational stakeholders, including business owners, CEO's, senior managers, human resource personnel, EFAP staff, and union representatives. The results of their research form the basis of the Towards a Respectful Workplace website and their outreach activities during Respectful Workplace Week which is the first week of September annually.

The MMFC is also a founding member of the New Brunswick Family Violence and the Workplace Committee, chaired by Silke Brabander, which has developed online resources for employers and employees. The Workplace Toolkit, "Family Violence: It's Your Business," was a first of its kind in Canada, and was designed to provide employers, unions and employees with information and resources to recognize and respond to family violence situations that entered the workplace. The Committee provides training, resources and tools to employers across New Brunswick in English and French.