Sexual Consent Education at Canadian PSIs

Sexual Consent Education at Canadian PSIs

Are you interested in sexual consent education? I am conducting a study with universities across Canada and I want to hear from YOU: students from #MRU #uOttawa #ConcordiaU #UBCO #STU #MacEwanU #uWinnipeg

Êtes-vous intéressé par l’ÉDUCATION AU CONSENTEMENT SEXUEL? Je mène une étude avec des universités partout au Canada et je veux vous entendre! Les étudiants de #MRU #uOttawa #ConcordiaU #UBCO #STU #MacEwanU #uWinnipeg

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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 study is a multi-method approach to explore and understand sexual consent education at PSIs across Canada – what is currently offered and what are students saying they want.

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. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not continue with face-to-face interviews with students at five other PSIs (in BC, AB, MB, ON, QU, and NB). Therefore, I converted the recruitment and data collection to be online in survey format (in English and French). To date, over 100 students have completed the survey.