Pathologizing Abuse: Examining Public Health Approaches to Addressing Intimate Partner Violence in Canada
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This paper aims to examine the medicalization of intimate partner violence (IPV) using critical political economy, feminist political economy and Foucault’s theory of power. A critical discourse analysis of publications released by public health and medical associations reveal explanations of IPV that avoid addressing the socio-political context in which family violence takes place. Additionally, the limiting epistemological frameworks guiding medical and public health disciplines give rise to professional and societal discourses that remain uncritical of larger political and social structures that perpetuate inequalities. Biologically and psychologically rooted theorizations of violence are shown to perpetuate a victimization model that places the locus of change at the individual. Drawing from concepts of decommodification and defamilisation, the MRP will explore the role of the Canadian welfare state in facilitating women’s dependency on the family. I argue that current approaches and initiatives proposed in the Chief Public Health Officer’s (CPHO) Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2016: A Focus on Family Violence in Canada, A Year in Review: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, the Screening for Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse of Elderly and Vulnerable adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement and the Intimate Partner Violence Consensus Statement by the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Canada fails to address the overall poor social standing of women that arises from inequitable macro-social policies. Findings of the analysis elucidate the ways in which abused women are further disenfranchised by policies informed by medical and public health discourses.