Intimate partner violence in Canadian military and Veteran communities requires further research

Ottawa, Ontario, 24 August 2022: While a growing amount of research evidence suggests that intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant concern among military personnel and Veterans, few studies have investigated the use and experience of IPV in these communities and within their Families. A newly released systematic review offers important insights into how commonly IPV is experienced among military personnel and Veterans.

The research led by the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, and conducted in collaboration with Phoenix Australia, Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, uses a working definition that IPV includes any behaviour intended to cause physical, emotional or sexual harm, in a current or former intimate relationship. This can include physical and sexual violence, as well as psychological or emotional abuse, such as coercive control — a pattern of non-physical, manipulative behaviour — that is used to gain and maintain control over a partner.

The Atlas-Phoenix review of research on IPV in military and Veteran communities found that 1 in 8 (13%) of all active duty personnel and Veterans reported recent use of IPV, and 1 in 5 (21%) reported having recently been exposed to IPV. Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of the Atlas Institute said these findings suggest a need for greater recognition of, and response to, IPV in military and Veteran settings, specifically within the Canadian context. ”As most, but not all, of this research has been conducted in the United States, the review also identifies a need for additional research regarding the use and experience of IPV among military personnel, Veterans, and their Families in other countries.”

Hosseiny, in confirming that military personnel and Veterans may be at a higher risk of using or being exposed to IPV, added that  the unique experiences within the military context such as relocations, deployment, as well as post traumatic stress and related mental health conditions, are all factors that could increase the risk of IPV.

Professor David Forbes, Hosseiny’s counterpart at Phoenix Australia, said the findings from this review provide up-to-date, evidence-based information about how commonly IPV is experienced and used among military personnel and Veterans: “The findings suggest a strong need for greater recognition and responses to IPV in military and ex-service settings. Addressing this need may include developing and/or increasing availability of programs that can meet the needs of military personnel and Veterans and their Families who are exposed to IPV.”

Hosseiny added that examples of such programs should include support services for clients that report exposure to IPV, as well as training for health providers of Veterans and Veteran Families to effectively discuss and respond to clients’ reports of exposure and/or use of IPV. “As a result of this study, we have a much better picture of the situation. We can state with certainty that there is a need for more services targeted at Veterans and Veteran Families to help prevent and reduce the use of IPV in these communities Policymakers and leaders in health service organizations can support these efforts by implementing policies that promote awareness of IPV in services for Veterans and their Families.”

The project, Hosseiny added, was initiated primarily in response to the increased risk of IPV generally, as a result of the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, and interest in knowing more about the impacts for military and Veteran communities specifically. Using this review as a foundation, the Atlas Institute and Phoenix Australia are planning a follow-up study that will engage Veterans and Families to learn more about their previous and/or current experiences using Canadian IPV support services and programs.

For more information about this study, contact engagement@theroyal.ca. Additional resources can be accessed at atlasveterans.ca/intimate-partner-violence.

For more information, contact:
media-atlas@theroyal.ca