Researchers receive SSHRC grant to examine sexual violence policies

September 14, 2018

Professors Melody Viczko and Rita Gardiner have received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant to examine the implementation of Ontario post-secondary institutions’ sexual violence policies.

Two Faculty of Education researchers – professors Rita Gardiner and Melody Viczko – were recently awarded with a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant to study Ontario’s post-secondary institutions’ sexual violence policies.

The funding announcement is timely and relevant because it’s happening during a time of social conscience.

“With sexual violence in the news as well as the #MeToo Movement, universities have been forced to be more responsive when it concerns sexual violence,” said Viczko. “The time to research these policies is now.”

Ontario’s post-secondary institutions were required to develop stand-alone sexual violence policies on Jan. 1, 2017, when Bill 132 became law. Gardiner said the legislation’s goal is to create safer campuses.

Over the next two years, Gardiner, Viczko and professor Jennifer Chisholm from Lakehead University will examine the challenges that face university staff who are responsible for implementing the policy and the tensions between the political will to create a policy and the reality of putting it into practice. Finally, the experiences of practitioners trying to make organizational change will also be assessed.

Starting in the Fall, Gardiner and Viczko will analyze policy documents from Ontario universities. Once policies have been analyzed, they will hold focus groups and interviews with those responsible for implementing the policy in universities, such as sexual violence coordinators as well as policymakers, including key people at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“We want to describe what it’s like to be involved in this work and determine where do these policies get stuck during its implementation,” said Gardiner.

Once the research has been completed, Viczko said they will share their findings with universities, government officials and with the public. As part of sharing their research with post-secondary institutions, their results will be discussed at community events and at speakers’ series. They will also use focus groups to share their findings with university sexual violence officers.

Viczko added higher education institutions must review their sexual violence policies in 2020, which means their research may help post-secondary institutions revise their current practices that deal with sexual violence on campus.

The research not only deals with safety but, for Gardiner, it’s also about ethics.

“At the end of the day it’s about the kind of society we want. It’s not just about the policy or the politicians. In my mind, sexual violence concerns all of us.”