A1. An Introduction to Violence Against Women

Setting a Foundational Context

A3. Family Law and Violence Against Women
A4. Criminal Law and Violence Against Women
A5. Ethics, Professionalism and Practice Considerations


Appendix A1: An Introduction to Violence against Women

1. Content description

This unit focuses on the social issue of individually perpetrated violence against women – public, private, sexual, physical, psychological. Particular attention will be paid to post-separation violence and the intersection between violence against women and the law. The legal response will be situated as one component of a holistic response to violence against women.

Readings are largely drawn from the sociology/psychology realm.

Students who successfully complete this unit will have increased knowledge about the issue of violence against women and its relationship with the law.


2. Possible Teaching Tools

Guest speakers

  • Survivor of violence
  • Shelter worker
  • Court support worker
  • Crown
  • Defence Counsel


  • Life with Billy
  • Sleeping with the Enemy
  • The Burning Bed
  • Looking for Angelina
  • Polytechnique


3. Definitions of violence against women

Proposed definition

“The term “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Accordingly, violence against women encompasses but it not limited to the following:

a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence, violence related to exploitation and trafficking of women and children.

b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.

Acts of violence against women also include forced sterilization and forced abortion, coercive/forced use of contraceptives, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection.” (United Nations, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 1973)



Key themes

  • Under-reporting of sexual violence
  • Why women are not believed
  • Stranger rape vs rape by men women know
  • Rape in spousal relationships
  • Criminal response to rape in Canada
  • Rape vs sexual assault

Suggested readings

Doe, Jane. The Story of Jane Doe. Random House Canada, 2003: 9-16.

Kingsolver, Barbara. “Letter to my Mother.” Small Wonder: Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 2002: 160-175.

MacFarlane, Bruce A. “Historical Development of the Offence of Rape.” Association, Canadian Bar. 100 Years of the Criminal Code in Canada: Essays commemorating the centenary of the Canadian Criminal Code. 1993: 66.

Randall, Melanie. “Sexual Assault in Spousal Relationships: ‘Continuous Consent’ and the Law.” Manitoba Law Journal 23 (2008): 141-181.

Razack, Sherene. “Gendered Violence and Spatialized Justice.” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 15.2 (2000): 91-120.

Sheehy, Elizabeth, ed. Sexual Assault Law, Practice & Activism in a Post-Jane Doe Era. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2012.

Vandervort, Lucinda. “Honest Beliefs, Credible Lies and Culpable Awareness.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 42 (2004): 625-660.



1. Introduction

Key themes

  • Societal reaction to domestic violence
  • Legal response/non-response to violence within intimate relationships
  • Extent of the problem

Suggested readings

Chewter, Cynthia L. “Violence against Women and Children: Some Legal Issues.” Canadian Journal of Family Law 20.1 (2003): 99-178.

DeKeseredy, Walter S. “Current Controversies on Defining Nonlethal Violence Against Women in Intimate Heterosexual Relationships: Empirical Implications.” Violence Against Women 6.7 (2000): 728-746.

Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre for Women and Children. Through the Looking Glass: The Experiences of Unrepresented Abused Women in Family Court. 2008: 6-15.

Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario. “Domestic Violence Death Review Committe Eighth Annual Report.” 2010.

Vallee, Brian. The War on Women. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2007: 27-30, 31-44.


2. Dynamics, forms and tactics of woman abuse

Key themes

  • Overall dynamic of power, control and coercion
  • Exploration of forms and tactics: physical, sexual, psychological, social, religious, legal, etc.

Suggested readings

Jacobsen, Neil and John Gottmann. When Men Batter Women. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998: 43-57.

Johnson, Michael P. A Typology of Domestic Violence: Intimate Terrorism, Violent Resistance and Situational Couple Violence. Northeastern University Press, 2008.

Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre for Women and Children. “Forms and Tactics of Abuse.” After She Leaves. 2010.

Power and Control Wheel[41]

Stark, Evan. Coercive Control: How M