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Study Reports Higher Education Would Lower Risk of Violence Against Aboriginal Women

Update Date: Sep 16, 2013 02:08 PM EDT

In the first study to examine the link between socio-economic status and risk of violence against aboriginal women, researchers discovered that the roles of education and finances play a huge factor. The researchers from St. Michael's Hospital are reporting that if aboriginal women had higher levels of education and income, their risk of violence would decrease dramatically. The team focused their study on aboriginal women living in Canada.

"The unfortunate reality is that aboriginal women in Canada are almost four times more likely to experience gender violence, but we wanted to know why," stated one of the study's authors, Dr. Janet Smylie, a scientist from the hospital's Center for Research on Inner City Health. "We wanted to unpack the disproportionate statistics of gender violence and intimate partner violence experienced by aboriginal women and found that taking socio-economic status into account cut the risks almost by half."

For this study, Smylie worked with Dr. Nihaya Daoud and examined data from the 2006-2007 Canadian Maternity Experiences survey, which gathered information on over 50,000 Canadian-born women. Of the sample set, over 3,000 of them were off-reserve First Nations, Inuit and Metis women. The team, who also worked with the Native Women's Association of Canada, found that aboriginal women were 37.6 percent more likely to have low incomes. They were also 24 percent more likely to have lower education. The researchers reasoned that due to lower-incomes, violence could arise from financial and social stressors. The team estimated that if aboriginal women were more educated and had higher incomes, their risk of violence would be reduced by 40 percent.

"Violence against aboriginal women is more complex than elevating socioeconomic status alone," Smylie said. "Future studies and research on the subject need to focus on the effect of colonial policies, such as residential schools, on aboriginal populations. The colonial impacts on aboriginal gender roles, social capital and access to social services have been felt over generations. To end violence against aboriginal women there must be policy-driven initiatives to revitalize traditional values between genders within aboriginal communities."

The study was published in Canadian Journal of Public Health.

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