The last month spent completing research has been a whirlwind of emotions and tasks for me. If there’s one thing I can say about completing a student research project, it’s that the people you talk to will be interested in what you are doing. No matter the program or the topic of research, there will always be lots of people that want to participate. Due to time constraints, I was not able to distribute a survey to students regarding sexual violence policies on Trent’s campus. I was, however, able to interview multiple members of staff on campus.
My thought process for interviewing staff regarding student issues was to start big and then slowly work my way down. I wanted to learn what was being done at the school and college-level before looking into students’ views. I came at it from this approach for two reasons; the first being the schedule I was on, as there wasn’t enough time to interview a lot of people or release an effective student survey. Second, my ethics application. As I was explaining previously, it is hard for an undergraduate student completing research to talk and interact with students. We don’t know if everyone is 18 years of age to begin with, and if they aren’t, then it can get into muddy waters, as then you’re dealing with under-age participants. As we all know with recent events, a lot of delays have happened and unfortunately this has also affected my research project.
Trent prides itself as being the only university in Canada where every student belongs to a college. This is not an option. In a way, this allows for smaller communities within the Trent Community as a whole, which in turn lets students make stronger connections on campus. Knowing that I could go to the Gzowski College office with any problem I might have is a lot less daunting than if I were to have to go to Blackburn for the same problem. The sense of community within the college setting allows students to feel safer and more included during their time at Trent.
While we obviously never want sexual violence to happen on campus or in the world, it unfortunatly still happens. As some of you may remember, the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey, released between February and April 2018, with the results being released in March of 2019, was gathering information from post-secondary education students regarding their perception and experiences of sexual violence. While this was a great resource for me to start my research with, the results aren’t complete. Only a select number of questions with results have been released publically, which affects the interpretation of the data. For example, the data for the number of reported sexual assaults is available, which seems unusually high for Trent, but that doesn’t show total incidences. This could lead to incorrect interpretations, as if we have high levels of reporting, then we must have high levels of sexual violence on campus; but we don’t have the data to support that conclusion.
While some sections of this survey cannot be interpreted properly, other sections lend some very valuable data that can help with my research. The following question and response plays a big role in my research.
“Indicate your level of agreement with the following statements on the scale of “Strongly disagree”, “Disagree, “Neither agree nor disagree”, “Agree”, “Strongly agree”
- a) I understand how to access supports (for example, counselling, health services, housing, safety and security services) related to sexual violence.”
Of the 12,535 responses (this included up to from responses from each participant) from Trent University, only 25.9 percent said that they agree or strongly agree that they have the knowledge of sexual violence supports, services, and reporting procedures at Trent University. This means that three quarters of respondents don’t know where to access resources if they experienced sexual violence.
These numbers are outstanding to me. I understand that students may not really know what resources are available to them until they actually need to access them, but we should be ensuring that students are aware of these resources before they need them. At this moment I am unsure of how we can do this, but more is always better in situations like these.