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Spousal Violence and Evaluations of Police Performance in Canada: Does Police Contact Matter?


Using data from the Canadian General Social Survey-Victimization main file, this study assessed the relationship between spousal violence victimization and attitudes towards police. In a nationally representative study of male and female Canadians, we conducted multinomial logistic regression analyses to evaluate the extent to which spousal violence was related to evaluations of police performance [in terms of (a) enforcing the law, (b) responding to calls, (c) being easy to talk to, (d) supplying information to reduce crime, (e) treating people fairly, (f) keeping people safe, and (g) overall confidence in the police] after controlling for socio-demographic and neighborhood characteristics. In follow up analyses, we evaluated if victims of spousal violence who had police contact as a direct result of the violence differed from spousal violence victims who did not have police contact. As hypothesized, spousal violence victimization was significantly and negatively associated with ratings of police performance and confidence in the police in all areas. Counter to our hypotheses, we found no significant differences in attitudes towards police related to police contact; however significant differences were found among survivors based on socio-demographic, violence severity, and neighborhood characteristics. Despite twenty years of policies to improve police response to spousal violence, negative sentiments towards police on the part of victims persist. Officer training programs that specifically address relational aspects of policing, in addition to educational aspects, are recommended to improve survivor-police relations.

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  1. According to the Constitution Act, 1982, s. 35(2), the term “Aboriginal” in Canada refers to Indian, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Although “Aboriginal” is the term most commonly used in Canada to refer to Indigenous peoples, this terminology may not reflect the terms commonly used in other countries and/or the manner in which individuals may choose to self-identify


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This work was supported with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant Program under Grant # 430–2013-000465 and the University of Windsor Tri-Success Grant Program under Grant # 812162. Data for this project was accessed by the researchers through the Statistics Canada Research Data Centre program. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect those of Statistics Canada.

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Correspondence to Betty Jo Barrett.

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Barrett, B.J., Peirone, A. & Cheung, C.H. Spousal Violence and Evaluations of Police Performance in Canada: Does Police Contact Matter?. J Fam Viol 34, 199–211 (2019).

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  • Spousal violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Policing
  • Law enforcement