Sexual Violence Policies and Sexual Consent Education at Canadian PSIs

D. Scharie Tavcer and Vicky Dobkins.

This book published by Routledge, is the culmination of three years of research into sexual violence policies and sexual consent education at post-secondary institutions across Canada. The prevalence of sexual violence has not changed in more than 30 years, and its reporting to police or school authorities has only waxed and waned over those years. In response, this book asks what can be done differently to reduce the number of victims and potential perpetrators?

In Canada and United States, approximately one in three women over the age of 15 has experienced sexual assault during her lifetime (Benoit et al., 2015; Cantalupo, 2011; Fisher et al., 2000; Holland & Cortina, 2017; Karjane et al., 2002; Krebs et al., 2007; Tjaden & Thoeness, 2000; United States Department of Justice, 2017). Despite, one in five women and one in 16 men being sexually assaulted during their stay at a post-secondary institution (PSI) (Fisher et al., 2000), more than 90% of sexual assault victims do not report the assault to school authorities (Krebs et al., 2007; Krebs et al., 2016). The lack of reporting by PSI students is consistent with general Canadian and American statistics that reveal that only 1 in 10 acts of sexual violence is reported to police officials (Brennan and Taylor-Butts, 2008; Department of Justice, 2017). And furthermore, those statistics have not changed in decades. As a result of these facts, I want to explore what can be done differently – what can PSIs do to reduce the numbers of victims and potential perpetrators too.

The first aspect was an environmental scan of over 120 PSIs across Canada to collate what consent-based education they offer and how it is delivered (in person, online, mandatory etc.). Next, I conducted face-to-face and telephone interviews with students at two PSIs (one in AB and the other in NB). In addition, I interviewed staff at these institutions (residence, security, sexual violence coordinators etc.). And I also held a focus group with sexual health educator experts from the Calgary community. Among other questions, I asked students to define consent and to identify what consent education exists at their university and who receives the education. And I asked them if consent education should be mandatory and if it should be mandatory for everyone on campus, not just students but for faculty, staff, and administrators.