Systemic Factors Explain Differences in Low and High Frequency Shelter Use for Victims of Interpersonal Violence

  • Nicole Williams
  • Katrina J. Milaney
  • Daniel Dutton
  • Wilfreda E. Thurston


Intimate partner violence is detrimental to women and children’s health and social outcomes. In order to identify the complex factors that shape help-seeking behaviour and what places women at highest risk of recurrence of violence and shelter use, it is critical to examine how individual and systemic factors influence shelter use. The Healing Journey Project was a longitudinal study conducted across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba to identify the experiences of women who were victims of intimate partner violence. A total of 665 women who had previously experienced IPV were interviewed biannually over a four-year period. Descriptive statistics informed probit regressions that then identified several factors that differentiate single frequency shelter users from high frequency users. The results emphasize the importance of using intersectionality theory to recognize the interplay of multiple factors to showcase the complexity of IPV and how it affects shelter use. The results also emphasize how colonialism’s lasting effects are pervasive, alongside the impacts of poverty, intergenerational abuse and structural barriers to housing and childcare. Implications require changes to policy and government funding to enhance access to gender and culturally safe housing with trauma-informed supports to both intervene and potentially prevent multiple experiences of violence.