UBC Theses and Dissertations
Making connections : interpersonal violence, women, and learning in graduate school Brooks, Mary Marjorie Curran
Interpersonal violence against women is a prevalent and often accepted part of North American life. Statistics from both Canada and the United States indicate that one-half of North American women have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence that affects their physical, emotional, and/or mental health. Governments and institutions, including educational institutions, minimize the prevalence of violence and the often debilitating effects it can have on women, silencing the voices of women who have experienced violence, and obscuring the need for intervention and prevention. The primary objective of this study was to examine the connections between women's experiences with interpersonal violence and their educational experiences in graduate school. More generally, I hoped to add to the limited information about how violence affects learning. I interviewed 11 female graduate students who had experienced interpersonal violence about their experiences in graduate school. The research revealed that the participants connected their experiences with interpersonal violence to their graduate school experiences through the effects of unequal relations of power and of silencing on their self-confidence and self-determination. They also recognized graduate school as a place where they were sometimes able to recover a sense of voice and personal authority that they felt was "lost" in their violent interpersonal relationship(s). The study findings point to the need for university policy makers and administrators, faculty, and students to understand the effects that experiencing violence may have on women's learning. At the most basic level, policy makers and administrators must think about the gendered implications when creating policies and suggesting strategies for implementation. In addition, pedagogical policies and practices, including the graduate supervisory model, need to be examined from a gendered perspective for issues of power and the possible abuse(s) of power. Through recognizing the prevalence and effects of interpersonal violence against women and addressing how relations of power in graduate school programs may reflect those experiences and affect women's learning, institutions of higher education will increase opportunities for female students and others affected by violence, to be successful, and will strengthen the learning of all students.
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