Queen’s releases updated Sexual Violence Policy for feedback

University District

Changes include clarification on ambiguous terms and precise outlines of reporting procedures

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This Thursday, the University released a 17-page updated draft of its university-wide sexual violence policy, which was approved and put into place in March of this year by Queen’s Board of Trustees. The new draft tackles some of the more ambiguous concepts like consent, confidentiality and reporting procedures.

The updated policy was drafted to meet the content requirements set out in Ontario’s Bill 132 and Regulation 131/16, and comes as a result of extensive consultation since the last draft was approved.

Updates include a new section dedicated to providing examples of when sexual activity is non-consensual, listed as when a person is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, asleep, unconscious or otherwise lacking the capacity to consent, under threat or coercion, or subject to an abuse of power or authority.

The section on consent also now specifically indicates that, “the fact that consent was given in the past to a sexual or dating partner does not mean that consent is assumed to exist for all future sexual activity; consent, once given, is revocable, at any time, by the person who gave it; consent cannot be given on behalf of another person; and, consent is not given by silence or the absence of ‘no’.”

The policy statement section was also updated to clarify that sexual violence can occur between individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity or relationship.

As well, the recent draft acknowledges that “there is often an intersection of sexual violence with discrimination and harassment, and those who experience the intersection of multiple identities such as, but not limited to, indigenous women, women with disabilities, racialized women, and those whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to historical gender norms.”

The new draft acknowledges a survivor’s autonomy in choosing whether or not to report their experiences, and provides a detailed list of steps the University will take towards protecting survivors that report or disclose instances of sexual violence.

One section that doesn’t appear in the approved policy that is now included in the most recent draft is in regards to the concept of confidentiality and its limits, giving precise examples of when confidentiality may be breached. The draft states that if the individual disclosing the incident is at a risk of harming themselves or others, or where reporting is required by law confidentiality may be breached.

The draft also includes a residence don receiving information about an incident taking place in a university residence building as a situation where confidentiality can’t be maintained.

New distinguishing factors are listed between “disclosure” and “reporting”, identifying that a disclosure is made in confidence and may lead to a formal report only if the survivor wishes to proceed with one.

Disclosure and reporting procedures are then precisely outlined, providing a detailed account of both the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator (SVPRC) and the student’s role in the process. 

The updated policy states that the SVPRC will assist in providing academic and other accommodations to sexual violence survivors, and dedicates several pages to explaining the assessment and investigation process for those who choose to report.

The decision-making process is also detailed in the case that a fellow student is identified as the perpetrator in the incident. In these cases, the respondent is referred to the Student Conduct Panel, and the University may then choose to engage panelists to hear cases if it requires specialized knowledge or expertise to reach a decision.

If it’s determined that the respondent has violated the Student Code of Conduct, he or she could face a number of sanctions, ranging from a written warning to a requirement to withdraw from Queen’s.

The updated policy is available on the Queen’s Secretariat and Legal Counsel website for review. Comments can be sent to policies@queensu.ca until Wednesday, Nov. 23.

All members of the community are also invited to attend an information session about the drafted policy, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov 22, from 6-7:30 p.m. in Career Services, 3rd floor, Gordon Hall.

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