Interrupting Sexual Violence

The Power of Law, Education, and Media

by Shaheen Shariff (Volume editor) Christopher Dietzel (Volume editor)
©2023 Textbook XXVI, 272 Pages


As a reflection of the iMPACTS Project, an international research partnership that investigates sexual violence at universities and in society, this edited collection is the first to take a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and addressing sexual violence and gender-based violence in Canada. The first section of the book examines law/policy issues impacting universities, while the second section explores student activism and university responses to students’ experiences of sexual violence. The third section examines sexual violence interventions through education and pedagogy, including an arts-based toolkit, a theatre production, and an international internship program. The fourth and final section focuses on vulnerable communities, including online and in person as well as within legal, human rights, and social justice frameworks. While law and education are two major themes in this book, systematic and institutional discrimination are also examined. As such, this book emphasizes intersectional identities and the disproportionate effects of sexual and gender-based violence on marginalized communities. This book addresses policy makers, educators, students, workshop facilitators, archivists, theatre professionals, and members of the general public. This book could be recommended reading in university level courses across a range of subject areas including law, policy, education, gender studies, health, and sociology. This edited collection is unique in that it is focuses on the Canadian context and consolidates emerging research on sexual violence from a variety of disciplines.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface by the Editors
  • Acknowledgements from Shaheen Shariff, Ph.D.
  • Acknowledgements from Christopher Dietzel, Ph.D.
  • Part I Sexual Violence Policies at Universities
  • 1. Developing Campus Anti-Violence Policies: Lessons Learned from the Criminalization of Gender-Based Violence
  • 2. Eliminating Adversarial Hearings from Sexual Violence Complaint Processes
  • Part II Student Activism and University Responses
  • 3. The Politics of Digitally Archiving Student Activism against Sexual Violence
  • 4. Feminist Protocols for Archiving Student Activism: A Focus on Practice
  • 5. Survivors’ Experiences and Perspectives Related to University Responses to Sexual Violence
  • Part III Education and Pedagogy
  • 6. The Transformative Impact of Experiential Pedagogy: Shifting Norms through Legal Education and Global Engagement
  • 7. Making Space for Missing Words: The P*&n Project, Youth Voice, and Pornography Education
  • 8. Not Just Any Toolkit! What’s Facilitation Got to Do with It?
  • 9. How Does Canada Measure Up? Sexual Violence Prevention and Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Ontario and Quebec
  • Part IV Vulnerable Communities
  • 10. Barriers in Reporting Sexual Violence: The Consequences on Canadian Women with Disabilities
  • 11. Exploring Connections between Sexual Violence and Dating Apps: A Focus on the Experiences of Men Who Have Sex with Men
  • 12. An Analysis of Vulnerabilities: Assessing the Psychological Risk of Survivors of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence in a Canadian Context
  • Appendix A: Statutes and Directives Mandating Creation of Sexual Violence Policies
  • Appendix B: Sexual Violence Policies and Related Policies Included in the Survey
  • Notes on Contributors

List of Illustrations

  1. Table 1.1 The creation date and most recent review date of sexual violence policies.
  2. Table 1.2 Sexual violence policies by province.
  3. Table 1.3 Descriptive information for sexual violence policies.
  4. Table 5.1 Survivors’ explanations for why sexual violence occurred.
  5. Table 7.1 Research participants.
  6. Table 7.2 “Sex, porn, love” written by Kelsey Kanatan Wavey.
  7. Table 9.1 Key concepts and topics from the UNESCO (2018) “International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.”
  8. Table 9.2 Comparison between the Ontario secondary sexuality education curriculum and UNESCO (2018) learning outcomes according to grade level.
  9. Table 9.3 Comparison between the Ontario secondary sexuality education curriculum and UNESCO (2018) key concepts and topics according to grade level.
  10. Table 9.4 Comparison between the Quebec secondary sexuality education curriculum and UNESCO (2018) learning outcomes according to grade level.
  11. Table 9.5 Comparison between the Quebec secondary sexuality education curriculum and UNESCO (2018) key concepts and topics according to grade level.
  12. Figure 3.1 The cover of the 1968 McGill University student authored “Birth Control Handbook”.
  13. Figure 4.1 The cover of the 2017 Our Turn national guide for creating university sexual violence policy and evaluating such policies. Note the McGill SSMU (Student Society of McGill University) icon in the top right corner.
  14. Figure 4.2 Student zines scanned and digitized for the archive. Photograph taken by Carrie Rentschler and used with permission.
  15. Figure 4.3 A sticker made by the Sexual Assault Centre of the Student Society at McGill University.
  16. Figure 4.4 A draft of the student-authored sexual violence policy proposal written by students at McGill University and first mentioned at a “Forum on Consent” held at the university in February 2014.
  17. Figure 4.5 A banner being made in the student union with McGill’s C- policy grade.
  18. Figure 8.1 Objects from the bag.
  19. Figure 8.2 Glove 1: Glove with hand lines and metal nails.
  20. Figure 8.3 Glove 2: Glove covered by eyes.
  21. Figure 8.4 Glove 3: Glove filled with rocks.
  22. Figure 8.5 Glove 4: Translucent rubber glove filled with red yarn.
  23. Figure 8.6 Glove 5: Cut glove and red thread.
  24. Front Cover: Artwork by Shaheen Shariff, Ph.D and Cover Design by Alyssa Jetha
  25. Back Cover: Design by Alyssa Jetha

Preface by the Editors

Shaheen Shariff, Ph.D., James McGill Professor, McGill University and Christopher Dietzel, Ph.D., Research Associate, McGill University

As Principal Investigator and Project Director of iMPACTS,1 I am delighted to introduce this unique collection of chapters that highlight and bring together the rich insight, range, and depth of eight years of research undertaken by academic colleagues and graduate students within the project.

We are especially grateful to publish this work as part of our academic book series with Peter Lang (the iMPACTS Series), whose editors have been supportive and patient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as research and writing ramped down. This was a time when academics, students, and their families joined the rest of the world in balancing remote learning with family responsibilities. While we enjoyed working from home and felt protected, we missed face-to-face social contact with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. We found ourselves thinking more about our health and the precarity of life, and young parents juggled children’s home schooling and workloads during long winter lockdowns. All the while, we attempted to make sense of the overwhelming barrage of conflicting news items and government directives on how to avoid COVID-19, reduce travel, stay protected, distance from others including family—and remain productive. However, while those of us who had the privilege of staying home were better protected, other segments of society were not so fortunate. Front-line workers and folks from lower income and racialized communities paid the heaviest price of the pandemic. Nurses, hospital workers, municipal workers, and others had to continue working. Many lived in densely populated areas, where they were more exposed to the virus. We also learned that domestic and sexual violence became more prevalent during the pandemic as some women and children were in lockdowns with their perpetrators. Women and children in abusive situations had few places to seek relief when shelters closed down. And although some of the chapters in this book were conceptualized and drafted prior to the pandemic, their message is even more important post-pandemic. It is essential to continue our work towards unearthing, interrupting, and addressing sexual violence through informed, non-arbitrary, and sensitive responses. This volume confronts and draws attention to many of those challenges.

Our publication evidences a high standard of productivity and human resilience despite pandemic dilemmas and uncertainty. It reflects the collaborative spirit, passion, and commitment to the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence that has kept our iMPACTS team moving forward. The chapters that follow represent research collaboration, analysis, and development of resources over the last eight years under a partnership project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). We are grateful to SSHRC for extending our grant to make-up time lost during the pandemic. Without this funding, we would not have had the resources to continue and complete much of the research highlighted here. The goal of iMPACTS is to provide ongoing improvements in sexual violence prevention policy, programs, and education—as well as to integrate multi-sector partner expertise into every aspect of university and school curricula. Specifically, our objectives are: (1) to reclaim the role of universities to educate not only their communities, but society as a whole; and (2) to acknowledge and act on universities’ responsibilities to model and be accountable as institutions of higher learning; (3) to provide spaces for insightful and informed dialogue, narratives, and creative expression that highlight and expose challenges in reporting, responding to, and addressing sexual violence in sustainable ways. To achieve this, university administrations and community leaders alike need to be knowledgeable about their legal and ethical obligations, and they must commit to going beyond the stated intent of sexual violence policies. Institutions of higher education need to develop and implement informed and non-arbitrary policies and transparent procedures that respect due process and procedural fairness for all parties involved. While institutional policies on sexual violence have improved over the years, there is still much work to do. Universities and community stakeholders need to engage with and hear all members of their community— especially survivors—and to provide opportunities and encouragement for informed dialogues. Alleged perpetrators also need to be provided due process and procedural fairness. This is not always an easy balance.

Collectively, our iMPACTS team is creating important resources, spaces, and opportunities for informed and multi-disciplinary dialogues that acknowledge and address the intersectional impacts of sexual and gender-based violence, both within universities and broader society. Integral to our model and philosophy is student engagement, empowerment, agency, and mentorship. Many chapters in this book and our two special issues of the Education & Law Journal2 are written and edited by students through a student mentorship structure that enables doctoral students to mentor master’s students, who in turn mentor undergraduate students. This mentorship process is overseen and undertaken within three domains that are supervised and led by established Canadian academics: (1) law and policy; (2) arts, activism, and popular culture; and (3) news and social media.

This book features a variety of work on sexual and gender-based violence from university students, recent graduates, early-career researchers, and established scholars. Collectively, we investigate the many ways in which sexual and gender-based violence are embedded in universities and in society, and we offer evidence-based suggestions to help administrators, policy makers, educators, activists, artists, news and media organizations, and many others address these problems.

I invite readers to follow our website3 and social media4 which include the latest research findings, toolkits, news media articles, conference presentations, and team updates. Valuable resources are shared regularly as we work with multi-sector partners, advocacy NGOs, and multi-disciplinary academics globally to address complex issues related to sexual and gender-based violence. In addition to the current volume, our second volume in this edited series is under review. It will highlight legal and policy implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover, our arts and popular culture partners in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto are planning an exciting project that engages artists and front-line workers (e.g., counselors, paramedics, nurses, lawyers, criminologists). Their conversations will culminate in narratives and creative art works to be exhibited in galleries across the three cities. The narratives and creative art works will be featured in a publication within the theme of sexual violence, trauma, and its ripple effect on community and society, and will also be highlighted through zines and social media platforms.

I invite you to enjoy the ensuing chapters, which my colleague Dr. Christopher Dietzel elaborates on below. We look forward to enhanced dialogues as our world continues to deal with COVID-19 and its variants; with wars and political situations across the globe where sexual and gender-based violence can be used as tools for political means; and where, in the United States, Roe v. Wade is no longer the legal standard for protecting women’s reproductive rights. I close this Preface with much hope, but also lingering trepidation lest the strides we have made since the #MeToo movement are once again eroded as a result of an increasingly polarized and divisive society, and imploding democrative norms. However, that conversation is for a future publication! I sincerely hope you benefit from and enjoy this book and value the hard work of graduate student contributors and Editor Christopher Dietzel.

Shaheen Shariff, Ph.D., James McGill Professor, McGill University

Editor and Series Editor


Along with my colleague Professor Shaheen Shariff, I have been involved with iMPACTS since its beginning: first, as Lead Research Assistant, and now as Research Associate. It has been a pleasure for me to grow with iMPACTS, and I have learned from world-renowned scholars, researchers, and students at McGill University and partner institutions. I am pleased to be able to share the impressive and important work that has come out of iMPACTS through this edited collection. The work included here provides timely and valuable contributions to addressing sexual violence and gender-based violence at universities and in society.

It is important to note that this collection was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was no easy feat. I commend the contributors for their work on this collection while managing their other responsibilities as well as their health, safety, and wellbeing. As such, I would like to congratulate all of them because they maintained high academic standards and produced quality work that exposes a variety of issues related to sexual and gender-based violence. Furthermore, I would like to thank Kaelyn Macaulay and Sara Sanabria for their work and support on this project. Both Macaulay and Sanabria have strong editorial skills and a keen eye for detail, which have been instrumental in reviewing and preparing this edited collection.

This collection is split into four parts, each of which takes a focused approach to examining issues of sexual and gender-based violence. Within their individual chapters, the contributors present their research and discuss the implications of their work, though many also take the opportunity to reflect on their personal and professional experiences. While these findings and themes are applicable to universities and other educational institutions, they also extend beyond the realm of education and touch on issues of sexual and gender-based violence that exist in broader society.

Part I of this collection examines the role of universities’ sexual violence policies. Diane Crocker and Gena Dufour begin by reviewing the history of policy and legislation work in the field of gender-based violence and, in doing so, they shed light on the feminist critiques of criminalization strategies that have aimed to address sexual assault and domestic violence. Applying lessons learned from the past three decades of work in this field, Crocker and Dufour argue that while Canadian universities’ sexual violence policies have met some of the challenges exposed by these feminist critiques, the policies have been insufficient in preventing violence or addressing social inequalities. The authors analyse current sexual violence policies to highlight how criminalization strategies have limited the transformative potential of these policies. They conclude that universities should shift their focus from developing policies that emphasize investigative and disciplinary procedures to policies that address the root causes of gender-based and sexual violence.

In her chapter, Karen Busby explains that, since 2015, universities and post-secondary institutions in most Canadian provinces and territories have been mandated with enacting stand-alone sexual violence policies. Early versions of these policies required respondents to participate in full, adversarial, in-person hearings before a disciplinary panel of professors and students—but this approach has raised concerns about procedural decision-making for formal sexual violence complaints and concerns about balancing fairness for complainants and respondents against efficiency, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness. Following such concerns, many post-secondary institutions’ sexual violence policies have recently been revised despite being only a few years old. Busby reviews the approaches from post-secondary institutions’ original and revised policies and, in doing so, reveals that many institutions have shifted away from relying on disciplinary panels to review cases of sexual violence and begun assigning these cases to expert investigators and senior administrators. Busby finds that institutions’ new investigatory models are fairer than the previous adversarial model—and that they are more efficient, timely, and cost-effective.


XXVI, 272
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (June)
sexual violence gender-based violence Canadian context
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2023. XXVI, 272 pp., 12 b/w ill., 11 tables.

Biographical notes

Shaheen Shariff (Volume editor) Christopher Dietzel (Volume editor)

Shaheen Shariff, Ph.D. is a James McGill Professor at McGill University. Her work is grounded in the intersection of law and education. Christopher Dietzel, Ph.D. is a Research Associate at McGill University. His research explores the intersections of gender, sexuality, health, safety, and technology.


Title: Interrupting Sexual Violence
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