Social Justice and Community Engagement
Sexual violence continues to be a pervasive issue on university campuses. The introduction of Ontario’s Bill 132, which mandates that all Ontario universities maintain a policy on addressing sexual violence involving students, indicates an awareness of the need to confront this issue. However, the existing literature demonstrates a need to understand how universities are engaging in addressing sexual violence by identifying whether the policies address the systemic factors that legitimate sexual violence societally and how universities incorporate sexual violence prevention strategies into their policies. This paper employed Foucauldian-informed critical discourse analysis using an intersectional feminist and anti-colonial framework to analyze the publicly available sexual violence policies and associated annual reports from a sample of Ontario universities. While this analysis demonstrated a general awareness by the universities of the link between various systems of oppression and sexual violence, the language of the sexual violence policies did not demonstrate meaningful efforts to address these systems of oppression at a structural level. This lack of structural analysis allows for the persistence of several common rape culture narratives, such as a reliance on carceral processes to deter violence and the use of language which perpetuates victim blaming discourses. Moreover, these narratives were found to inform the violence prevention approaches being employed by the universities, resulting in an effective assignment of responsibility to the individual to manage a systemic issue. This paper concludes with a discussion of what it means to “shift the blame” and the need for post-secondary institutions to meaningfully engage in intersectional and anti-colonial approaches in order to eradicate all forms of gender-based and sexual violence.
Thomson, Rachel, "Shifting the Blame: Systemic Issue, Individual Responsibility" (2022). Social Justice and Community Engagement Major Research Papers. 8.