Nicole Jeffrey is a PhD candidate in Applied Social Psychology at the University of Guelph and is working under the supervision of Dr. Paula Barata. She primarily uses qualitative and critical psychological approaches to study men’s violence against women, including sexual and intimate partner violence and rape culture on university campuses. At the beginning of her graduate degree, Nicole felt limited by mainstream psychological and quantitative approaches to understanding the world. Critical and qualitative approaches have allowed her to orient her research towards social justice and have challenged her personally and professionally to understand the world and human behaviour more openly and critically.
For her MA thesis, Nicole examined university women’s lived experiences of sexual violence in intimate relationships. She also led a research project in the Research Facility for Women’s Health and Wellbeing at the University of Guelph (Dr. Paula Barata’s laboratory) on women’s campus safety concerns related to sexual violence. Throughout both of these projects, she became interested in how critical psychological approaches could help her navigate the tensions involved in representing women’s lives and voices when those voices contradict feminist interpretations of oppression.
Nicole’s PhD research extends her MA research by examining the ways that university men talk about sex, relationships, sexual communication, and sexual violence against intimate partners (including their own perpetration). At the core of this research is an interest in how men draw on broader social discourses about “normal” heterosexuality and how these discourses support sexual violence and gendered power relations and allow perpetrators to position themselves and their sexual violence as normal and expected in heterosexual relationships. Critical and feminist post-structuralist approaches allowed Nicole to move beyond the traditional approach of studying individual- and peer-level predictors of men’s use of sexual violence. She believes this is crucial for informing more effective prevention efforts and, ultimately, improving women’s lives, wellbeing, and relationships.