Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Jaffe, Peter G.

2nd Supervisor

Chiodo, Deborah



Domestic homicide is a critical human rights issue that continues to impact women, children, and families in Canada. Between 2010-2018, 662 individuals died as a result of domestic homicide, many of whom were mothers who left surviving children behind. This study examined the experiences of surviving children prior to, during, and in the aftermath of domestic homicide through quantitative and qualitative court and media document analyses. It was found that 136 children in Ontario experienced domestic homicide between 2010-2017. Domestic homicide impacted surviving children in all domains of functioning and was often associated with long-term adverse outcomes. Court documents revealed that the trauma associated with experiencing domestic homicide as a child was seldom considered by sentencing judges. This study broadens our collective awareness of the trauma associated with domestic homicide and underscores recommendations for adopting trauma-informed principles at the systemic level, specifically within the criminal justice system.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study explored the experiences of surviving children prior to, during, and in the aftermath of domestic homicide. Court and media documents were examined to get an understanding of the context for children leading up to and during the domestic homicide. This study also assessed the ways in which children were mentioned and accounted for in court. A total of 136 children experienced domestic homicide in Ontario between 2010 and 2017. Experiencing domestic homicide has detrimental effects on children’s psychological, physical, social, and academic functioning. The devastating impact of domestic homicide was seldom recognized in the Court by sentencing judges. This study’s findings are significant as they strongly encourage a trauma-informed shift at the systemic level. This study’s findings emphasize the need for the Canadian criminal justice system to respect child victims and do more to validate their experiences through the development of more explicit legislation related to the impact of trauma on children. This study provides an understanding of the needs that surviving children have in the aftermath of domestic homicide and can serve as a reminder of the ways in which service providers, such as lawyers, teachers, mental health professionals in Ontario, approach this traumatized population in the broader community. The present study highlights the need for a broader awareness of the trauma associated with domestic homicide and more effective collaboration amongst service providers.