library books

This project, titled “Education - Law and Policy,” examines sexual violence at universities through several lenses – legal, administrative and educational – so institutions of higher education are equipped with an improved understanding of their legal obligations, roles, and responsibilities.

Specifically, this project has three overarching objectives:

  1. To reclaim the role of universities in educating their own communities and greater society on the value of sustainable models to prevent and reduce sexual violence.
  2. To bring students and multi-sector partners together to initiate evidence-based and creative ways of informing administrative and curriculum policies on sexual violence.
  3. To expand knowledges and legal definitions of what constitutes on-campus sexual violence, given interactions that take place off-campus and online.

“Education – Law and Policy” continues to generate wide-ranging initiatives both at the national and international level.

Multiple Institutions across Canada — Sexual Violence Survey

One of the main mandates of the project “Education: Law and Policy” has been to develop and distribute qualitative surveys that gauge student, faculty, and staff experiences with sexual violence within university communities. The aim of these surveys is to gather information about university policies, communication strategies, institutional supports, due process (for both survivors and perpetrators), and barriers to reporting. Data gathered from these surveys will contribute to the development of sexual violence policies at various institutions.

The pilot stage of this project was completed at McGill University in 2017-2018. The pilot study involved surveys, focus groups, and interviews with students, faculty, staff, and senior administrators. The surveys examined the prevalence of and the context in which members of the McGill community experience sexual violence, as well as their knowledge and perceptions of the university’s responses to sexual violence. Focus groups engaged students in small discussions of issues related to sexual violence, and interviews with faculty, staff, and administrators explored their perspectives as decision makers, service providers, and people who receive disclosures and reports of sexual violence. The findings and recommendations from the pilot study were submitted to the McGill University Senate in January 2019.

Partners' Meeting screenshot Zoom
iMPACTS 2021 Virtual Partners' Meeting

The next stage of this project is to conduct the revised study at iMPACTS partner institutions. Although originally scheduled to launch in March 2020, the study was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the direction of Dr. Ada Sinacore, a co-investigator at McGill University, the pilot study was revised and developed to include, for example, questions about the impacts of the pandemic on university member’s experiences of sexual violence. The revised survey is scheduled to launch at partner institutions soon. Dr. Sinacore and her team are also preparing for the focus groups and interviews. For more information, please contact Dr. Sinacore: ada.sinacore [at]

McGill University, Faculty of Law — Prevention of Sexual Violence on Campus

As part of the wide-ranging iMPACTS project, a research team based at the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) is exploring the legal and quasi-legal dimensions of the problem of sexual violence on higher education campuses, with a focus on the role and responsibilities of higher education institutions in creating safe and inclusive environments. The team is led by Professor Nandini Ramanujam and Professor Colleen Sheppard, and it includes Clarisse Delaville (DCL candidate) and Raina Young (BCL/JD candidate). The team’s research has resulted in two bibliographies that are available for public use, a forthcoming podcast, and a forthcoming academic article.

Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources. The research team conducted a comprehensive review of case law, policies, and legal research related to sexual violence on university campuses. The resulting annotated bibliography is available as a resource for the public, students, professionals and academics.

Bibliography: Selected Arts and Multimedia Sources. Many activists, survivors, and scholars have turned to multimedia and the arts to express views and capture perspectives on the problem of sexual violence in higher education. To best illustrate the full range of perspectives and content on this issue, the research team created a separate bibliography of non-academic and multimedia sources. The bibliography contains a selected list of non-academic sources, including news articles, podcasts, online exhibitions, poetry, and novels.

Podcast. The CHRLP research team is producing a documentary podcast which digs into the responses of Quebec universities to the problem of sexual violence. Specifically, the research team investigates: (1) Whether this legislative shift - giving more proactive responsibility to universities to tackle GBSV - has been effective; (2) Whether any factors are hindering the concrete application of the policies, resulting in implementation gaps; and (3) What paths forward can help facilitate an effective decrease in GBSV, notably, by considering best practices developed in other parts of Canada and in other OECD countries. 

Nova Scotia Barristers Society Annual Leadership Event — Sexual Misconduct Discussion & Workshop

iMPACTS Director and James McGill Professor Shaheen Shariff was invited by the Nova Scotia Barristers Society to attend the Annual Dara Gordon Leadership event in May 2019 and lead an impactful discussion on taking action to address sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Each year, the event is attended by lawyers who come together to discuss women’s leadership in the legal profession. Professor Shariff’s sessions – entitled “Navigating Workplace Sexual Misconduct in the #MeToo Era” – highlighted evidence-based strategies of how law firms can respond to sexual misconduct in physical and online spaces between partners, associates, students and other legal staff. The presentation also included suggestions for how organizations can develop and implement codes of conduct that address sexual misconduct in the workplace. Following Professor Shariff’s presentation, iMPACTS co-investigator Dr. Christopher Dietzel and former research assistant and current articling student Yulia Yugay facilitated an interactive workshop, which explored first-person scenarios of sexual misconduct in the legal profession and asked participants to develop harassment guidelines for the legal profession.

University of Birmingham — Teaching Healthcare Students about Gender-Based Violence

Dr. Caroline Bradbury-Jones from the University of Birmingham, alongside colleagues at institutions in New Zealand and Australia, led and developed a four-part study about gender-based violence (GBV). The study was comprised of: 1) a systematic review of educational strategies for teaching GBV; 2) a survey of healthcare students on their experiences learning about GBV; 3) focus groups with academic staff about GBV in the curricula; and 4) the development of an open-access training module on GBV for health and social care students. The training module is available for free online, and it aims to raise students’ awareness about GBV and equip them with guidance about reporting concerns of GBV to a mentor or advisor. The module – entitled “Gender-based violence: a resource to support students in health and social care” – can be accessed here.

Screenshot of training manual

McGill University Hospital Centre — Harassment and Sexual Violence Training for Residents

Dr. Jason Harley, a co-investigator of the iMPACTS Project, works out of the McGill University Hospital Centre and the SAILS lab. Harley and their team plan to develop an educational intervention that provides medical students and medical residents with information about harassment and tips for how to address it. The intervention would also include opportunities for medical students and medical residents to practice responding to sexual harassment during a standardized simulation that would be offered in a specialized training session. The project also aims to evaluate the effectiveness of this educational intervention to increase medical students’ and medical residents’ ability to effectively combat harassment. The team hopes this initiative leads to promoting a safer and more positive work environment in healthcare settings.

McGill Student Research Initiative — Dentistry Pilot Course

One of the many outcomes from “Education: Law and Policy” was the development of a mandatory social justice component in the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) program at McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry. Collaborations between the iMPACTS team, members of the Faculty of Dentistry, McGill’s equity office (previous called the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office, now Equity at McGill), and Emil Briones (a previous research assistant and Masters of Arts student) resulted in a series of workshops for DMD students entitled “DENT 206: Dentistry Social Justice Seminar.” Briones co-facilitated the pilot workshops during the 2016-2017 academic year. The curriculum included key concepts of anti-oppression, social justice, and transformative action that were explored in the context of students' future roles as oral healthcare providers. Briones collected and analyzed data on student engagement and content feedback to study the effectiveness of the program. Findings from Briones’ study were published in iMPACTS’ special edition of the Education and Law Journal in an article entitled “Beyond Braces, Fillings, and Extractions: A Social Justice-Oriented Educational Response.” We are hoping the course will be scheduled again in the future.

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