Fighting sexual violence on campus
University is meant to be a place where all students can focus solely on learning in a safe environment. Yet, as many as one in four women attending a postsecondary institution will experience rape or attempted rape before they graduate.
The scope and impact of the problem underscores the importance for researchers to develop and evaluate interventions on campuses to help combat this reality.
Over the course of more than 10 years, Charlene Senn, who is Canada Research Chair in Sexual Violence, has developed a sexual assault resistance education program for women in their first year of university or college, which is when their risk is the highest. Senn’s Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) program affirms men’s responsibility to stop rape, while empowering female students with the knowledge and skills to fight back against a sexual attack.
The effectiveness of this program was demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in which the rate of one-year incidence of completed rape was reduced by almost 50% among women who took the intervention program compared to the control group.
Senn’s research now focuses on studying and enhancing the effectiveness and implementation of the EAAA as it is rolled out on campuses across North America. Her research on institutionalizing bystander programs for students of all genders will contribute to broader changes in campus culture. This research has the potential to reduce the incidences of rape on campuses across North America.