Integrating Complexity into Research on Rape Culture on University Campuses

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Diane CROCKER, Saint Mary's Univeristy, Canada
Recent incidents in Canadian universities have highlighted the problem of “rape culture” on university campuses. We are seeing renewed interest in improving the institutional response and efforts to prevent future events and improve campus safety.  This paper argues that our efforts will continue to have little effect unless we integrate lessons of complexity theory into our work.

Those who write about complexity compare simple, complicated and complex problems. Simple problems are characterized by repeating patterns and linear, cause and effect relationships. These problems may be addressed based on facts and “best practices.” Complicated problems require expertise to uncover the less obvious cause-effect relationships and underlying patterns. While there may be more than one solution to a complicated problem, the resolution is still driven by facts. Complex problems present as “fluid and unpredictable” (Snowden and Boone 2007:7). They require innovative responses and creative methods to uncover patterns. Fixing a Ferrari is a complicated problem but fixing a rainforest is complex (Snowden and Boon 2007).

Given the context described above, “rape culture” is complex. Despite the proliferation on programs and policies, reports of sexual violence and manifestations of “rape culture” continue to take place on campuses across North America. In my view, the research underpinning the responses to has not approached “rape culture” as a complex phenomenon.

This paper describes the findings of a project that involved university students in a participatory research project to explore how they how they understand, negotiate or make meaning of rape culture. This project has adopted innovative research tools specifically developed to capture and analyze large amounts of narrative date in complex contexts.  The preliminary results of the project suggest new ways to tackle the problem of rape culture on university campuses.