A University of Guelph sociology professor will help to lead a new $2.2-million national project to curb domestic violence and homicide.

Myrna Dawson, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Public Policy in Criminal Justice, will head the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative for Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP) with Western University professor Peter Jaffe.

Involving more than 40 community service organizations, government departments and universities, the project is funded by the Partnership Development Grant program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

“The University of Guelph is proud to be part of this important collaboration,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

“It will enhance research efforts and help create a national dialogue, leading to better-informed policy and decisions.”

Dawson and Jaffe hope to better understand factors underlying domestic homicide within at-risk groups, including Aboriginal women, rural residents, immigrants and refugees, and children exposed to domestic violence.

“Historical and contemporary research has shown that women are at particular risk of domestic homicide,” Dawson said, adding that barriers can hinder vulnerable populations from reporting domestic violence and obtaining necessary services, further increasing risk for various groups.

“This project will help save lives through enhanced policies and services in community responses to domestic violence.”

Dawson directs U of G’s Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence and belongs to the Homicide Research Working Group, an international consortium on lethal violence. She and Jaffe belong to the first-ever Canadian domestic violence death review committee, created in 2002.

Intimate partner violence accounts for 26 per cent of all violent crimes in Canada. “But we know little about risk factors for vulnerable populations with higher rates of this type of violence,” Dawson said.

During the next five years, the CDHPIVP will create a national domestic homicide database and conduct research to improve risk assessment and management as well as safety planning for vulnerable populations.

“Nationwide, collaborative efforts will allow us to identify unique, individual and community-level risk factors for violence for particular vulnerable populations,” says Jaffe, director of Western’s Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children.

In 2014, Dawson and Jaffe created the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative website to raise awareness among researchers, community organizations and government policy-makers.