Conference Update:

Sexual Assault on Campus: Exposing the Truth

Jewish Women International of Canada

November 4 – 5, 2007

This conference was useful and informative, and an excellent first look at sexual assault on campus from a variety of perspectives. I’d like to provide a brief summary of some of the talks that I attended, along with some new resources and useful websites.

Dr. DeKeserdey, Prof. of Criminology

Male Support System for the Aggressors

Dr. DeKeserdey presented some research on the strong presence of peer support / approval for male perpetrators as a key determinant of sexual assault against women. He also highlighted some cultural norms that perpetuate the idea that woman abuse is acceptable for men. He pointed to men as being responsible for changing their attitudes and actions towards women, and has written extensively on programs to accomplish this.

Barbara MacQuarrie & Dr. Susan Rodger

The Impact of Sexual Violence on Campus on Academic Performance

This presentation focused on the specific effects of sexual assault on the life of a student, specifically on his / her ability to complete academic work. The presentation also highlighted the difference in federal legislation between the US and Canda; the US has the Students’ Right-to-Know Act, which requires each university to publish and circulate information on the prevalence of sexual assault on their campuses. Canada has no such legislation. Also, the presentation mentioned Canada’s attempt to rank campuses according to safety: METRAC. More information can be found here.

Dr. Hoffman, Director of McGill Mental Health Services

The New Sexual Revolution

Dr. Hoffman’s presentation focused on the loss of boundaries that he has observed between many young people and other people in their lives. This loss of defined boundaries is changing social norms, and there is little control over what is appropriate and what is abusive in relationships of many young people.

Dr. Helene Berman, University of Western Ontario

The Trajectory of Violence on the Lives of Girls

Dr. Berman’s work is on the normalization of violence in the lives of young girls. She points to the former research paradigm of “girls at risk” as being ineffective, as all girls growing up in our culture are at risk of being exposed to violence, either directly or indirectly. She highlighted a disturbing trend in some school of sexual harassment being labeled and dealt with as “bullying,” which does not address the problem at all. She recommends establishing safe spaces for girls to discuss violence, media literacy, and programs focusing specifically on respect for one another, and for themselves.

Overall, a very informative conference. Keep talking about sexual assault on campus!

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