Bringing prevention to the community

By Sindhu Dharmarajah
February 27, 2014

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Peter Jaffe has seen far too much violence in his 40 years working in clinical psychology. 

This past May, for example, Jaffe explored issues of filicide – parents killing their children. Fathers are killing infants as a form of revenge when their partners leave, Jaffe said. This is just one form of the many domestic violence cases he has encountered over the years.

“I became intrigued with the issues, because it was such a devastating problem. It was so widespread,” Jaffe said.


Jaffe became the academic director of The Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women & Children in 2005.  In the wake of the massacre that killed 14 women in a Montreal school in 1989, the research centre was formed to understand and prevent domestic abuse.

The centre’s role is to allow a collaboration of individuals, groups and institutions to pursue research questions and training opportunities. It serves local, national and international communities by producing useful information and tools.

The centre joined the Faculty of Education in 2001. It was set up as a collaborative organization – along with Fanshawe College and the London Coordinating Committee to End Woman Abuse. Western provides partial funding for the centre while the rest is raised through grants and donations.

“A big part of violence is violence prevention,” Jaffe said. “We want to make sure we understand the more emerging questions, research them and perhaps lead to change in policies and practices.”

Jaffe added women don’t want to come forward because they don’t want their husbands to deal with criminal records. Also, some women would rather deal with their problems through their religious faith instead of through the justice system.

Forcing someone to come forward with their experiences before they are ready can take away his or her independence. Jaffe also noted it’s crucial to make sure the centre is aware of the repercussions. “You could also make a bad situation worse. So, we also want to be aware of whatever policies or practices we developed that they’re actually tested,” Jaffe said.

The centre’s vision is to apply knowledge by analyzing specific cases to prevent violence through collaboration. An example of this would be the murder of Lori Dupont, a nurse who was killed in 2005 by her colleague and ex-partner at the hospital where she worked. This incident raised concerns about domestic violence in the workplace. The faculty at the centre talked to the hospital staff, researched to understand the scope of the problem and explored topics about workplace security.

Maureen Reid, community research consultant, recalls the local case of the Daubs sisters in 2006, when a father killed his two daughters and himself.

“(At the time) the community did not share information. Had everyone pulled their information together there would have been a bigger notification on the radar screen,” Reid said. Following the incident, “it really led to a change in collaboration in the community in terms in how we work together.”

Bryanne Harris, a graduate student working at the centre as a research assistant, says the centre connects the gap between research and the community through its multiple conferences, workshops and training.

“They’re able to take the research from here at the centre and actually implement it to help teach communities and hopefully they can put it into practice,” Harris said.

For example, the centre and the community (school boards and the Committee to End Woman Abuse) evaluated and discussed the emerging trend of cyber-bullying, using B.C.’s Amanda Todd as a case study. This led to the Social Media and Sexual Violence Conference held in November. The event consisted of guest speaker Carol Todd (Amanda’s mother), an interactive play as well as a panel discussion to promote community involvement.

“It’s opened my eyes a lot to certain injustices that there are in society for sure. The prevalence of teacher sexual misconduct, the prevalence of domestic violence in society, those things I never thought were as common as they are,” Harris added.

In another case, an unidentified London woman died following weeks in the hospital after an alleged fatal assault by her common-law partner.

“But these are tragic situations that happen in our community all the time. Sometimes with lethal consequences, sometimes not, but still we have 7,000 domestic violence occurrences a year that we respond to,” said Lisa Heslop, supervisor of the family consultant/victim services unit with the London Police Service.

The centre is important in London because it has always strived to make a difference in the community by finding new approaches to manage cases of domestic abuse, Heslop said.  “There’s certainly evidence to suggest that by raising awareness, people are more likely to call, people are more likely to come forward, more likely to seek resources and help when they need it.”


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