Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 04, 2002

U of G seeks participants for study on violence and relationships

A University of Guelph professor and graduate student are hoping to explore how women are leaving relationships where they are experiencing violence.

Family relations professor Judith Myers Avis and masters candidate Julia Dunlop are hoping to interview 10 to 15 women in the Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge region for their study. All interviews will be conducted at the participants' convenience in a neutral location and will be confidential.

The pair are looking for women who have been out of abusive relationships for at least two years. "This is so they have had time to reflect on their experiences," Dunlop said. Added Myers Avis:

"Statistics show that most women tend to leave an abusive relationship many times before they finally leave for good. We want to find out what helps them take that final step."

Myers Avis said that as therapists, she and Dunlop are interested in learning whether women who leave have sought help from a therapist or women's shelter or other service and if the resources were helpful. "And if they didn't receive any help, we want to find out what types of services might have been useful to them in their decision-making process."

Women don't necessarily have to have left the relationship to qualify for the study, said Dunlop, but they must have made a decision to no longer live with violence. "Typically, there is something -- a final straw -- that contributes to their taking action, whether that action is leaving or seeking counselling," she said. "But there is usually a turning point when the decision is made." Dunlop came up with the idea for the study while working in a women's shelter. "I saw so many different women, and they all had so many reasons for not leaving their relationships: love for their partner, fear, loyalty, children, the hope that things would change and often feeling responsible for the abuse.

Dunlop added that staying in a violent relationship often becomes a survival skill. "The violence often increases after a woman leaves, sometimes to the point of lethality, so she often stays to prevent things from getting worse. It is very complex."

Although the reasons for getting into a violent relationship - and staying - are complicated, the pair say the statistics are clear. Nationwide, some 29 per cent of married or common-law wives have been subjected to physical or sexual abuse by their partners at some point in the relationship. Only one-quarter of women ever report the violence to police, and about 40 per cent of violent relationships involved children who had been exposed to physical or sexual violence. "This is an issue of tremendous proportions and concern in our country," Myers Avis said.

A confidential, toll-free telephone number has been arranged for study participants. To take part in the study or for more information, call Julia Dunlop at (519) 658-8962 or 1-866-399-6399 (toll-free).

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, 519-824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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