Indigenous Mothers & Children Healing from Intimate Partner Violence

Summary of project

Intimate partner violence (IPV) and the exposure of children to IPV are serious societal concerns. Notably, Indigenous women in Canada are four times more likely to experience IPV than non-Indigenous women. These inequities among Indigenous women and children need to be understood within a broad context of Canadian colonization and the intergenerational effects within a broad context of Canadian colonization and the intergenerational effects of the collective traumas experienced by previous generations fo families and communities. The negative impacts of IPV for women and their children have been well documented. Women survivors of IPV are at elevated risk for a variety of physical and psychological problems which may also impact their parenting. Children exposed to IPV are 5 to 7 times more likely to experience a wide variety of emotional and behavioural problems in the short term and over their lifetime, compared to unexposed children. They are also at greater risk of continuing the cycle of violence later in adulthood than children who have not been exposed.

Effective interventions are urgently needed; unfortunately, many existing programs were not designed to meet the needs of Indigenous mothers and their children. When used without the proper cultural contexts and adaptations, interventions can inadvertently exacerbate existing traumas and continue the histories of Canadian colonialism and health inequity among Indigenous populations. Our team combines the neccessary expertise of Indigenous knowlege keepers and experienced researchers to address this problem. Our goal is to conduct a feasibility study of an evidence-based intervention designed specifically to meet the needs of Indigenous mothers and their children who have experienced IPV using a two-eyed seeing approach. To our knowledge, we will be the first team to do so in Canada. Our findings will significantly improve the lives of Indigenous mothers and children by providing counsellors and social workers with more effective tools specifically designed to help Indigenous families.


  1. To complete the adaptation of an effective evidence-based intervention for Indigenous mothers and children who have experienced IPV. The adaptation process will be undertaken in close partnership with our Community Advisory Council (CAC); it will follow a two-eyed seeing perspective, incorporating Western and Indigenous knowledge, ways of knowing and being.
  2. To implement our adapted program with mothers and children recruited from our community partners in Winnipeg and Calgary. We plan to evaluate our adapted program using a two-eyed seeing perspective that combines Western (quantitative) and Indigenous (qualitative) methodologies. Our mixed methods evaluation will rely upon ongoing engagement with and feedback from our CAC. Our iKT approach will increase the effectiveness our knowledge translation with relevant Canadian stakeholders. Our findings will not only demonstrate the effectiveness of culturally responsive evidence-based interventions for Indigenous mothers and their children affected by IPV, but our long term follow-up that investigates how risk and protective factors influence mothers’ and children’s wellbeing one year post-intervention will inform knowledge users (e.g., counsellors, social workers) concerning how to better assist families to maintain the benefits of our intervention over the long term.

Members of the Team

Faculty of Health Sciences,
University of Manitoba

Nicole Letourneau
Faculty of Nursing,
University of Calgary

Sandra Graham-Bermann
Department of Psychology,
University of Michigan
Faculty of Science, 
University of Winnipeg

Depeng Jiang
Faculty of Health Sciences,
University of Manitoba