Introduction: Intimate partner violence (IPV) impacts approximately one quarter of Canadian women, and services provided to support womenare heavily influenced by policy. Policy sets the stage and tone for action in all sectors. To date, there have been no critical discourse analyses examining how provincial, hospital, and women’s shelter policies intersect and impact women in rural communities.
Methods: A critical discourse analysis using a case study of one rural community in Southwestern Ontario was undertaken by a multisectoral team of researchers using a critical, feminist, intersectional lens. The selected policies were: 1) Domestic Violence Action Plan for Ontario (ODVAP); 2) the rural women’s shelter policy; and 3) the hospital policy.
Results: The internal analysis of the policies revealed that ODVAP focused on societal solutions to violence requiring cross-sectoral cooperation with a focus on marginalized populations, whereas the rural shelter policy focused on creating a philosophical orientation to underpin their work with clients. There was no formal hospital policy related to the provision of services for women who have experienced violence. The policies revealed a disconnect between the stated goals and the specifics concerning how the policies would come together to achieve these goals. Obstacles such as having no clear link for how ODVAP and the shelter policy would work together, idealization of training but a lack of specificity on what training would be useful, and the requirement of affirmative action on the part of women to engage with services functioned as a means to maintain the status quo, that is, working in a siloed approach to care.
Conclusions: Integrative systems are important for women who have experienced IPV given the wide range of health, social, and economic consequences of violence. Policy alignment is important for women who have experienced or are experiencing IPV particularly in rural contexts where services are fraught with additional barriers.