Study examines Jewish domestic violence on Prairies

Study looks at how domestic violence is perceived in the Jewish community
Study looks at how domestic violence is perceived in the Jewish community

A research study about domestic violence in the Jewish communities in the Prairie provinces is currently underway to learn more about characteristics that may be unique to the way members of the Jewish community experience domestic violence.

“We wanted to find out how domestic violence is perceived in the Jewish community and what happens when people come forward to disclose when they have experienced abuse, so that ultimately, better services and resources can be made available,” said University of Calgary Prof. Nicole Letourneau, the lead researcher on the study titled “Assessing Domestic Violence in the Jewish Communities of the Prairie Provinces.”


Andrea Silverstone, Shalom Bayit co-ordinator for Jewish Family Service Calgary, who initiated the study and obtained a grant from the Prairie Action Foundation to fund the three projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, predicted, based on 20 years of experience in the field, that the rates of occurrences of domestic abuse are likely the same across Canada for both Jewish and non-Jewish communities.

Andrea Silverstone
Andrea Silverstone

“What will be different is the way that Jewish women access services and the way that Jewish women stay [in an abusive marriage] or manage the violence in their lives if they are in domestically violent situations… and whom they tell when they are experiencing abuse,” Silverstone said.

Background information provided on the survey website shows that there is a tendency for Jewish women to stay up to three times longer in abusive relationships than non-Jewish women, and that Jewish women are less likely to access emergency shelters and social service organizations.

“We’re going to take all the data, summarize it and bring it back to the leaders in each community and talk with them about the findings,” Letourneau said, adding that the survey is voluntary and anonymous, and takes about 15 to 30 minutes to complete online.

Silverstone said the study aims to understand the “scope, occurrence, attitudes and needs of Jewish women who experience domestic violence in the Prairie provinces. My hope is that this will give us good data and information to both understand what is currently happening and what kind of programming and policy work we as a community need to do going forward to make sure we are properly addressing the need of those who are impacted by domestic violence, and eventually ending domestic violence in the community.”

She said the Jewish Women’s International (JWI) Chicagoland Study, published in 2004 in the United States, is “the backbone for this study.”

“If the Chicagoland and the JWI study is very different from the experiences of women in the Prairie provinces, maybe it’s different in Eastern Canada – I don’t know. But if it is the same, I think we can make some extrapolations about this being the experience of Jewish women in North America,” Silverstone said.

She said while there are still those who believe the misconception that domestic abuse is not an issue for the Jewish community, general awareness is improving.

“We always say in the domestic violence field generally that we’re 25 years into a 100-year journey to de-stigmatize domestic violence. I feel like in the Jewish community, we’re 10 or 15 years behind the non-Jewish community. People are starting to say that domestic violence exists… We’re getting better, but we’re still not where we need to be. There is also a lot of finger pointing. I think there are a lot in the Jewish community [who think] that if you’re Orthodox, it’s the Reform, if you’re Reform, then it’s the Orthodox, if you’re Canadian, it’s the Russians – so I think there is still a lot of compartmentalizing that it’s the other parts of the Jewish community, but not my part.”


The study launched in early January and the plan is to keep the survey open until May 31. Letourneau said she hopes to get responses “in the thousands,” from the roughly 32,000 Jews who live in the Prairies.

To take part in the online study, click here. For more information, or to seek support for victims of domestic abuse, contact Jewish Family Service Calgary at 403-287-3510.