Sexual Violence on Canadian Campuses: Existing and Emerging Research Findings

Wednesday May 31 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm
TRSM 1-003

Session Code: VLS8
Session Format: Roundtable
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Gender And Sexuality, Violence and Society
Session Categories: Roundtable

College and university campuses across North America face longstanding and significant difficulties with sexual violence, with 15 to 25% of female students experiencing some form of sexual assault while enrolled at post-secondary institutions. This is not a new problem in Canada; nearly two decades ago, Statistics Canada reported that four out of five female undergraduates in Canada are victims of violence in a dating relationship. At the same time, this ongoing situation(when coupled with the inadequacies of institutional policies and procedures to prevent sexual violence and assist survivors)has generated a new wave of North American campus-based feminist activism. This session covers the topic of sexual violence on university campuses by bringing together Canadian scholars and experts on this topic, in order to illuminate what we know and what remains to be known about it, and what initiatives are being put forth to respond to it. We welcome academics as well as community activists and experts to submit abstracts of empirical, theoretical, and review papers to be presented at the session. Tags: Gender And Sexuality

Organizers: Katelin Albert, University of Toronto, Fuyuki Kurasawa, York University, Erik Schneiderhan, University of Toronto


Mandi Gray, York University; Laura Pin, York University

What do Students Know? Undergraduate Knowledge of Campus Sexual Assault

Campus sexual assault has recently experienced an upswing in public attention. Many universities have responded by developing educational campaigns, implementing sexual violence response offices, and enhancing security measures, but little research has assessed whether undergraduate students are aware of these initiatives, and how they impact student perceptions of campus safety. Through a 2016 survey of 406 undergraduate students at a large public university in Ontario, Canada, this paper investigates undergraduate knowledge of campus sexual assault resources and perceptions of safety from campus sexual assault. Survey responses indicate that many undergraduate students have limited awareness of university initiatives related to sexual assault. Surprisingly, students who reported attending an educational event focused on sexual assault were no more likely than their peers to be knowledgeable about resources or reporting procedures. In addition, female-identified students scored significantly lower than their male-identified peers on questions assessing their perception of safety from sexual assault, and both male and female students were less likely to feel safe on campus in the evening. These findings suggest that current information and education initiatives may not be effective in increasing student knowledge of sexual violence resources, or enhancing feelings of safety on campus, particularly among female-identified students.

Mehak Kawatra, University of Toronto; Chelsea Smith, University of Toronto

Sexual Assault on Canadian Campuses: A Critical Review of the Canadian Literature

Sexual assault is a growing concern on Canadian university campuses, with only a small amount of Canadian research focusing on this topic. This paper reviews current Canadian literature that investigates and explores this topic to systematically uncover what is known about sexual violence, assault, and harassment in the Canadian context. We begin by outlining the multiple ways in which sexual assault, violence, harassment, rape etc., are defined and discussed in the literature. We then summarize the main theoretical approaches employed in the literature, such as routine activities theory and feminist theory. Highlighting the structural and inter-personal factors that are associated with sexual assault, we review the campus specific characteristics that influence the incidence of sexual violence (particularly the role of drugs and alcohol). Finally, we examine the common themes that are present in the literature, such as rape culture, the abuse of women, the role of ethnicity, as well as victim-perpetrator relationships. Although there were some gaps in the research when accounting for diversity, intersectionality, and the specific role of substance use, this review reveals many important insights identified by the literature. We conclude by pointing out concrete areas and findings that can enrich future research on this topic.