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Not just another Saturday night: Strategizing safety with women living in non-urban communities experiencing intimate partner violence in Ontario

Lead Researcher: Danielle Bader

Photo of Danielle Bader.

Women living in non-urban communities experience higher rates of intimate partner homicide (IPH), relative to those living in urban centres (Northcott, 2011; Gallup-Black, 2005; Jennings & Piquero, 2008; Hotton Mahony et al., 2017; Brownridge, 2009). In 2008, a Canadian study revealed that the rate of IPH in rural versus urban jurisdictions was .90 and .16 per 100,000 population, respectively (Northcott, 2011). Additionally, the Homicide Survey by Statistics Canada revealed that Indigenous women were approximately six times more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner compared to non-Indigenous women from 2001 to 2015 (Hotton Mahony et al., 2017). Indigenous women (First Nation, Métis, Inuit) are a critical subpopulation within non-urban Canadian communities because they comprise a large proportion of the population (Status of Women Canada, n.d.). Despite the higher risk of IPH for women living in non-urban communities, there is limited research on how to stay safer. In response, Danielle Bader employs qualitative methods to examine how place influences women’s feelings of fear and safety and strategies they employ to protect themselves from abusive intimate partners as well as barriers and challenges encountered by service providers developing safety plans with women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV).

Danielle Bader’s doctoral research embraces theoretical pluralism, acknowledging and integrating strengths from multiple disciplines with overlapping and differing perspectives across sociology, criminology, feminist studies and geography to demonstrate how IPV in non-urban communities is relational, interactional and has spatial consequences (McLennan, 1995). Emotional geography (Bondi et al., 2005; Anderson & Smith, 2000) helps to understand how women’s feelings of fear and safety have spatial consequences (i.e., constraints, forced relocation, imposing physical distance) in the non-urban context. Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989; 1991) explains how women’s experiences of IPV and responses are shaped by converging systems of oppression (e.g., gender, geographical location, class, indigeneity), and how that impacts their ability to achieve safety. Finally, social ecology (Bronfenbrenner 1977; 1979) provides a lens for explaining how factors present at multiple levels within their environment (e.g., individual, relationship, community, societal) interact and influence women’s experiences and strategies they employ to protect themselves from a violent intimate partner.

Through this research, Bader challenges the social construction of the rural idyll that often characterizes non-urban communities (Bunce, 2003; Little & Austin, 1996), developing a representation of non-urban places from the perspective of women experiencing IPV. By placing geography at the forefront, this study advocates for the inclusion of rurality as a critical point of examination for understanding how structural intersectionality influences women’s experiences and responses to IPV and how they are responded to by others (i.e., service providers) (Sandberg, 2013). Finally, this study considers how a holistic understanding of the occurrence of IPV in non-urban communities and attending to the influence of geography may be a promising approach to reducing the risk of lethal violence for this high-risk population.


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Gallup-Black, A. (2005). Twenty years of rural and urban trends in family and intimate partner homicide: Does place matter? Homicide Studies, 9(2): 149-173.

Jennings, W. G., & Piquero, A. R. (2008). Trajectories of non-intimate partner and intimate partner homicides, 1980-1999: The importance of rurality. Journal of Criminal Justice, 36(5): 435-443.

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Sandberg, L. (2013). Backward, dumb, and violent hillbillies? Rural geographies and intersectional studies on intimate partner violence. Affilia, 28(4): 350-365.

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