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Current Graduate Research Projects

STUDY: Women’s Experiences of Conflict in Intimate Relationships

Tanja Samardzic, a Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Social Psychology at the University of Guelph is looking to recruit young, heterosexually identified women who are residents of and/or students in Ontario, Canada and who have been in a relationship with a man for at least 6 months to participate in an online survey.

The survey takes about 12-18 minutes to complete and the questions ask about conflict (including but not necessarily abuse) in young women’s current intimate relationships. For participating, young women have a 1-in-5 chance of winning a $5 Starbucks e-gift card. This project is being supervised by Dr. Paula Barata and has been reviewed by the Research Ethics Board for compliance with federal guidelines for research involving human participants [REB#21-10-006].

If you would like more information or if you are interested in participating and would like a link to the online survey, please email Tanja:

Relationships, Sex, and Boys, Oh My!: A Focus Group Study

Tanja Samardzic (Ph.D. Candidate) will be conducting the first study of her dissertation and will be recruiting young women in the Guelph/Wellington County area to participate in a series of online focus groups. The purpose of this study is to explore the types of societal messages that young women refer to when talking about intimate relationships, including the associated pressures and expectations. These messages may include but are not limited to the need to be in relationships with men and the need to engage in sexual activity. Of interest are other, deeper questions like what does it mean to be a good girlfriend? Tanja will be speaking with young women of varying relationship backgrounds, including young women who have never been in an intimate relationship. Tanja will use a feminist post-structural framework when analyzing the data and aims to disseminate the research findings by presenting at an academic research conference, publishing in a reputable journal, and providing a summary to participants and interested parties.

Men’s Normalization of their SV in Intimate Relationships

Nicole Jeffrey, Ph.D. candidate, and researcher in the Research Facility for Women’s Health and Wellbeing was the lead author on a study published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. The article is part of her Ph.D. dissertation research. Jeffrey and co-author, Dr. Paula Barata, examined men’s descriptions of their use of sexual violence ranging from verbal pressure and persistence to physical force against intimate partners. Interviews with 10 university men highlighted that men often used language that helped them to position themselves and their sexual violence as normal and expected. Specifically, they used dominant discourses about heterosexuality (such as those pertaining to men’s biological sex drives) and sexual violence and used various minimizing strategies. While they also sometimes discussed the importance of consent and communication, they gave little indication that they were applying these to their relationships in any meaningful way. 

Sexual Assault Resistance Education (SARE) Project: Date Rape Drugs and Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

As part of the SARE Project, a longitudinal RCT to test the efficacy of a 12-hour sexual assault resistance program for 1st year University women, Sara Crann (Ph.D. Candidate) and Jessica March (Undergraduate Intern) are conducting secondary data analysis on data pertaining to women’s experiences with date rape drugs (including alcohol) and drug-facilitated sexual assault.  

Enhanced Assess Acknowledge Act (EAAA) resistance program

Implement EAAA at your institution

Women’s Experiences of Sexual Coercion in Intimate Relationships 

Nicole Jeffrey, Ph.D. candidate, and researcher in the Research Facility for Women’s Health and Wellbeing was the lead author on a study published in the journal Violence Against Women. The article draws on her Master’s thesis research. Jeffrey and co-author, Dr. Paula Barata, examined women’s experiences of being verbally pressured and physically forced into sexual activity by a male romantic partner. Interviews with 12 university women highlighted that “words hurt”; physical violence did not need to be present for these experiences to be harmful as many experienced guilt, anger, sadness, and self-blame. Many women saw their partners’ behaviour as selfish and controlling, but others made light of it in ways that are consistent with cultural norms that justify sexual violence. Further, even when the women made light of their partners’ behaviour, these experiences often still had negative consequences for themselves and their relationships.

Investigation of Self-Compassion, Shame, and Self-Blame in Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Sandra Erb’s master’s thesis research project investigated the relationship between self-compassion, shame, and self-blame in survivors of intimate partner violence and explored whether levels of self-compassion varied by violence type. Fifty-one female participants, 19 to 64 years of age (Mage = 30.60), who identified serious romantic relationship conflict within the last five years were recruited from women’s shelters and related organizations, Kijiji online advertisements, a University campus, an online women’s forum, and social media sites. Participants completed an online survey that asked women about relationship violence and about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Results indicated that women experiencing high levels of shame and self-blame possessed lower levels of self-compassion. Results also revealed that women exposed to intimate terrorism had more difficulty experiencing self-compassion than those encountering situational couple violence. The results of this study suggest the importance of self-compassion to address the shame and self-blame that often plague survivors of IPV. Recruitment for this study has been extended until February 28, 2017, in order to increase the number of participants for publication purposes. Erb and Dr. Paula Barata seek to publish the findings from this study within the coming year.

Intimate Partner Violence Survivors’ Experiences with Subsidized Housing

Nicole Jeffrey, Ph.D. candidate, and researcher in the Research Facility for Women’s Health and Wellbeing was the lead author on a study published in the journal Housing Studies. Jeffrey and co-author, Dr. Paula Barata, examined women’s experiences using priority subsidized housing programs for intimate partner violence survivors. Interviews with 10 women highlighted that subsidized housing programs, although very important, can impede women’s efforts to safely escape abuse. Many of the women saw subsidized housing programs as stigmatizing, difficult to access and qualify for, and controlling.  

Community-Engaged Evaluation Research of a Girls’ Empowerment Program

As part of her Ph.D. dissertation research, Sara Crann (Ph.D. Candidate) partnered with three social service agencies in rural southwestern Ontario to conduct an evaluation of their girls’ empowerment program.  The community-university partnership began in 2012 and the project is now in its final stages.  The mixed-method, longitudinal evaluation research resulted in a report delivered to the community partners and presentation to the coalition of executive directors of women’s shelters from across the province.  From the qualitative data collected as part of the evaluation, Sara used a feminist poststructuralist framework to examine the gendered subjectivities among the girls and young women who participated in the empowerment camp.  The research has been presented at the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP) conference and the American Psychological Association conference in 2016, with a forthcoming presentation at AWP and Canadian Psychological Association in 2017.

Women’s Safety on Campus PhotoVoice Project

The Research Facility for Women’s Health and Wellbeing sought to examine female university students’ subjective experiences with and perceptions of campus safety using a unique qualitative method, participatory photography (also termed Photovoice). Seven first-year female-identified university students took photos that represented their experiences and perceptions of safety on campus and participated in two focus group workshops. Women’s safety concerns included: (a) men and strangers; (b) alcohol and drugs; (c) darkness and isolation; (d) ineffective and unreliable campus resources and policies; and (e) an unfavorable campus climate for women. Women’s perceptions of safety were highly reflective of broader cultural norms and discourses. This study has a direct application for improving women’s safety on university campuses. Results were disseminated to both students and campus policymakers. The research team also created an online toolkit meant to support researchers and educators through stages of participatory photography projects. The contents may also be useful for researchers, educators, and social justice advocates working in the area of violence against women and/or women’s safety.