Getting to the heart of sexual violence on campuses

October 16, 2017

Student’s research explores sexual violence policies on Canadian post-secondary campuses—and lays down the groundwork for future Honours research


As part of her first-year orientation as a Griffins athlete, Kelsey Friesen sat in on a presentation about sexual violence. She never expected the impact it would later have on her academic studies.

“The topic of sexual violence on post-secondary campuses was still lingering in my mind nearly a year after that presentation,” she says, two years later. “So in my first sociology course, when I was given the opportunity to research a social inequality topic of my choice, I jumped at the chance.”

Kelsey focused on sexual violence policies on Canada’s post-secondary campuses; she presented her work at Student Research Day in April and at a colloquium in Halifax in June.

“Over the past year, I’ve been laying the groundwork for the next two years of research that I’ll be working on,” she says. “My work to date has involved reviewing a lot of literature and policies. I’ve been looking for common themes and developing different research questions as I continue to read and learn more. When I first started researching sexual violence, I was interested in the Canadian post-secondary policies that directly concerned sexual violence. I really wanted to know why it took so long for so many post-secondary institutions to adopt policies, and also why some institutions still don’t have them.”



Call for papers: Ending Sexual Violence Student Research Forum

The annual Ending Sexual Violence Student Research Forum and Award recognizes outstanding student research on the topic of sexual violence. We encourage students from all disciplines to submit papers that look at any aspect of this issue.

Find out how to submit your paper.


With guidance from her Honours supervisor, Dr. Amanda Nelund, Kelsey is continuing her research in the Honours Sociology track.

“I’m really interested in exploring the responses that post-secondary institutions and the criminal justice system have to cases of sexual violence,” says Kelsey. “There’s an important movement afoot that emphasizes believing and supporting those who have bravely disclosed their experience or experiences with sexual violence. But on the other hand, Canadian law states that all alleged persons are legally entitled to defend themselves in any set of circumstances. All in all, it would be fascinating to examine the balance between the rights of those who come forward and the rights of the alleged person(s) under Canadian law.”

“ At MacEwan, we are lucky to have faculty and students asking hard questions and generating great ideas.” 
Roxanne Runyon

Roxanne Runyon, MacEwan’s sexual violence prevention and education coordinator, believes that academic inquiry is an important tool for addressing sexual violence.

“It’s a complex, multi-faceted issue that we need researchers from across disciplines to grapple with so that those perspectives can inform how we prevent and respond to violence,” she says. “At MacEwan, we are lucky to have faculty and students asking hard questions and generating great ideas.” 

Tough statistics 

“Sexual violence affects at least 25 per cent of women and at least 17 per cent of men at some point, if not at multiple points throughout their academic career. When you tell people those percentages, sometimes they respond with “that's not a lot.” But think of it this way: That’s one in four women and one in six men.

“When you’re sitting in a first-year introductory sociology class of 80 students—and then for our purposes right now, let’s say half are female and half are male—at least 10 women and at least seven men in that class have experienced sexual violence. It actually is a lot.”

Kelsey Friesen, Bachelor of Arts, Sociology Honours student  


To learn more about how MacEwan is creating a culture of consent, visit

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