Genuine Concern or Lip Service?

Sexual Violence Policies in Canadian Post-Secondary

  • Kelsey Friesen MacEwan University


Post-secondary institutions are intended to be safe spaces where students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to experience and engage in critical thought and discussion. When critical thought and discussion occurs, it may raise awareness, give context, and challenge assumptions which have potential to shift the narrative around big issues. Although post-secondary institutions foster the intellectual growth of its members, they are also environments where its members face sexual violence. While sexual violence has always been present in these institutions, it is only more recently that sexual violence along with its impacts on victims received closer attention from media. This media attention resulted in a public pressure which demands post-secondary institutions to create and implement policies and educational programming that specifically addresses sexual violence. Other policies and processes, however, such as Student Codes of Conduct the criminal justice system, already designate forms of sexual violence as intolerable or illegal. Due to the massive public pressure and demand for policies which specifically address sexual violence and sexual violence only, it is crucial to examine how or if these policies add or contribute to the policy or legislative context in Canada. To examine these policies, this research investigates campus community members’ knowledge of and perceptions of sexual violence policies in the context of Canadian post-secondary institutions. The overall findings of this research suggests that students lack knowledge around not only the content of sexual violence policies but also the existence of these policies more broadly. Despite this, there is unwavering support for these policies amongst students, faculty, and staff. The findings of this research provide important insights for Canadian post-secondary institutions about the knowledge of, perceptions of, and attitudes towards sexual violence policies.


Faculty Mentor: Amanda Nelund

Department: Sociology (Honours)