Keeping us safe from harm
Andrew Brankley, Psychology MA alumnus and PhD student
Every year in Canada, an estimated $3.6 billion is spent on the direct and indirect effects of child sexual abuse. This includes public and private costs in the areas of health, social services, justice, education, research and employment. Andrew Brankley sees this as an opportunity to use research to protect the public and give back to the community.
An alumnus of Ryerson’s Clinical Psychology master’s program and a current PhD student, Brankley is investigating whether pedophilia is better understood as a category (such as autism or biological sex) or an age preference. By interviewing adult male offenders in the correctional system, he hopes to guide prevention efforts by identifying individuals before they commit a sex crime.
Similarly, Brankley’s master’s thesis focused on the prevention of sexual violence, by trying to understand offenders’ motivations. Dr. Alasdair Goodwill, Brankley’s master’s supervisor and PhD co-supervisor, supported his ambitions and opened doors so he could flourish as a researcher. His other co-supervisor is Dr. Karl Hanson, adjunct professor at Carleton University, research manager at Public Safety Canada and a world expert in risk assessment. Dr. Hanson provided Bankley with access to a vast network of researchers, which has been instrumental to his investigation.
Currently, Brankley is completing a clinical residency at The Royal, a leading mental health care and academic health science centre in Ottawa. Working in the satellite Secure Treatment Unit in Brockville, he is conducting assessments, and providing treatment and consultation for individuals with a history of sexual offending, in addition to other groups. According to Brankley, the role offers a good balance between research and clinical practice, along with opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and seeing first-hand how psychology fits into the overall mental health treatment plan.
In 2014, Brankley became the first Ryerson psychology student to receive a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, valued at $150,000 over three years. The scholarship gave him credibility as an emerging researcher and opened doors on his journey.
“Ryerson always encouraged me to take chances and try new things, to ask ‘Why not?’” said Brankley. “They represent a group of individuals who are passionate about education and are constantly trying to improve that experience for students.”
Following his PhD, Brankley plans to continue research in risk assessment with a post-doctoral fellowship. His focus will be on enhancing the interpretation of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Revised (PCL-R), a widely used assessment tool in the criminal justice system, in order to improve how the relationship between psychopathy and criminal behaviour is communicated.
“These are major public health problems that are preventable. By gaining a better understanding of criminal behaviour, I hope to contribute to the solution towards keeping Canadians safe.”
Photo credit: Eugen Sakhnenko