A project of researchers at the University of Windsor is setting out to empower adolescent girls with the knowledge and skills to identify risk and resist sexual violence.
Led by Charlene Senn, a professor of psychology and women’s and gender studies and Canada Research Chair in Sexual Violence, and Sara Crann, an adjunct assistant professor in psychology, the Girls Resist project has garnered funding support of more than $1 million over a span of six years from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The project is currently recruiting 900 girls in three Ontario communities — Windsor-Essex, London-Middlesex, and Kingston-Frontenac — to participate in a trial. Participants will be randomly assigned to either receive training right away in the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) healthy relationships and sexuality program, or to receive a brief consent workshop immediately and take the program in six months’ time.
EAAA has been previously evaluated with university women and found to significantly reduce sexual assaults experienced for at least two years. The program has been adapted specifically for girls between 14 and 18 years of age who have not yet graduated high school.
“Effective sexual assault prevention programs for teens are lacking despite the reality that 50 per cent of all rapes happen to young women 18 years of age or younger,” says Dr. Senn. “We are excited to make this fun and empowering program available to teen girls in our community and to gain information about how it works and can be improved before it is offered to girls across Canada.”
The 12-hour program uses a variety of interactive activities, videos, roleplay exercises, and discussions. It aims to enhance participants’ ability to recognize risk in social situations and others’ behaviour, to identify and be able to defend their physical and sexual values and boundaries, and provides effective tools for self-defence, while reinforcing that sexual assault is solely the perpetrator’s fault.
“The significance of this program cannot be overstated, as it addresses a critical gap in effective prevention strategies for teen girls, who face disproportionately high risks,” says Shanthi Johnson, UWindsor vice president, research and innovation. “This initiative underscores the dedication to foster a safer, more equitable society for all.”
Participant recruitment began in early 2023 with new offerings in Fall 2023 and Winter/Spring 2024. The research team is looking for adolescent girl participants, cis and trans, to enroll in the fall 2023 program. If you have a teen daughter or know a girl or are a girl who would be interested, visit https://girlsresist.ca/ to contact the team for more information or to enroll. Parents will be asked to provide parental consent for girls under 16.